Boks must walk the walk

Dan Retief

Rassie Erasmus must feel like a condemned man sitting in a dark and dank cell waiting for his day of reckoning.

There’s an all black cloud hanging over him and if he were to glance at newspapers and websites, or peek at Tweets on his cellphone, he would find only tidings of impending doom.

The day the keyboard prophets are agreed upon is 15 September 2018 when the ground under the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, might cleave open and swallow the Springbok coach.

On that day the Springboks, by then already three fixtures into the Rugby Championship, will meet the mighty All Blacks and that is when, according to the pundits, we will know whether Rassie Erasmus is truly the genius some have made him out to be.

Of course it’s the obvious proclamation. The men in black have been the nemesis of most who have gone before Erasmus and have come to be seen as the defining line between success and failure.

Erasmus is not going to put a shoulder to the scrum, hands to a turnover or foot to a kick yet he is going to be respondent number one if South Africa does fail to break the All Black hoodoo.

It’s fundamentally unfair.

Is it not time that the players took some responsibility for their performance? Shouldn’t they shoulder some blame for the losses; be responsible for the poor judgment that has cost them games; own up to the lack of skills that have often tripped them up?

I think so.

We are talking about full-time professionals on the kind of salaries that only the occupiers of the very top of the pyramid earn in our troubled land. They do nothing but practise and play rugby. They are carried on the hands of all kinds of retainers but when things go wrong, as they often have in the last few years, the coach gets the blame.

Erasmus has at his disposal four players who have captained the Springboks in Siya Kolisi, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth who, astoundingly, is available having not played a single game of rugby in eight months.

The squad is full of players who have chipped at the coal face of Test rugby; who should know what it requires and why they have been failing.

Tendai Mtawarira has 101 caps, Eben Etzebeth 67, Francois Louw 57, Pieter-Steph du Toit 36, Siya Kolisi 31, Steven Kitshoff 27, Franco Mostert 21, Frans Malherbe 19 and Warren Whiteley 17.

Among the backs Willie le Roux has 44 caps, Jessie Kriel 32, Handré Pollard 29, Elton Jantjies 26, Lwazi Mvovo 17 and Faf de Klerk 14.

Even some of the “newbies”, such as Bongi Mbonambi (16), Malcolm Marx (14), Jean-Luc du Preez (13), Lionel Mapoe (12) and Ross Cronje (10) are no longer rookies.

Apart from this, most of the squad also have extended track records in Super Rugby. They’ve been there and done that.

So it’s time for Siya Kolisi to be as influential as Richie McCaw, for the Beast to live up to his nickname, for Etzebeth to show that he is up there with Brodie Retallick, for Willie le Roux to demonstrate that he is as good as Israel Folau and for Handré Pollard to rekindle the form he showed at Ellis Park in 2014 when he turned in a commanding performance, including scoring two tries, to guide the Boks to a 27-25 victory over the All Blacks (incidentally, the last time SA beat the old enemy).

The culture of always blaming the coach is just wrong.

To use the cliché-ridden language that is so prevalent in sport, it is time for the players to put their hands up, to man up, to give substance to their zero-errors mantra, to accept responsibility, to be accountable, in short to excel – not just a game at a time, every game for the full 80 minutes.

- Dan Retief

Let's chat

  • Johan

    Can we (writers, supporters, players and coaches) all stop FEARING the all blacks?

    They are good, so what?

    Look at what our schoolboy rugby did to them:
    Grey College 66-28 Christchurch Boys’ (NZ)
    Boland Landbou 59-26 Napier BHS (NZ)
    Monument 42-37 Napier BHS (NZ)

    • minging

      Yet take one look at the political farce that is the SA Schools side. Any of the top 5 individual schools would give them a hiding.

      • Warren

        too true – school level has not yet been tainted with the touch of government intervention – give it time…. it will eventually happen….

    • Sharky

      And yet look at what happens at the u20 RWC and international level.

      I have a theory about that. Our schools, inundated with boerseun beef, out-muscle school sides from other countries. And we have a lot of said beef, so we have a lot of good school sides in SA. But distill that down, and no matter the quantity of Dutch genes slushing around our gene pool, you can only field 15 men at a time at international level. So, in their fair land, the Kiwis are bound to find 15 big boys to do battle at national schoolboy level and higher. And when our boerseun kids are met with equal Kiwi beef they don’t know what to do… because their whole school career they were able to physically dominate and therefore did not have to build their skill-set. The Kiwi kids, on the other hand, do not play age-group rugby at school, but rather weight-group rugby. So their biggest of boys have only ever played other beasts and have had to develop their skills to get an edge.

      Log story short – their system is superior and the is why our schoolboy advantage fades as you move into the international sphere.

      • Hopeful

        What a crock of BS…..The reason the “Beefy Boerseuns” as you classify them don’t elevate is because the coaching doesn’t elevate…

        Grey college, Paarl boys etc – Their 1st XV’S outclass, outplay and outmuscle their opposition….. how does that simply stop at senior level….what changes so much from school to senior levels….wait I’ll tell you…

        1.1 Poor quality coaching
        1.2 Quota requirements sidelining players
        1.3 lack of technical assistance from specialists
        1.4 Players get lost in the system

        NZ takes that talent and size…trains, coaches and hones their skill sets and then ignites the talent and size as the formidable combination we see in so many of their players….

        Don’t.hate the natural talent and gene pool….hate the system that imefectivley makes it count!!!

      • Chris

        I’m not against the = weight team theory, but I think it should be a part of our training regime instead of a league. I would prefer they try bringing in more 7’s rugby (by weight class) into school boy rugby training.
        It would develop better skills amongst the bigger guys and help with conditioning with the added benefit of boosting our 7’s rugby in general.
        I’m also afraid that if you let smaller guys scrum , you are asking for some serious neck injuries.

        The problem with just doing a weight division is that certain key positions like nr10/front row/centre etc. require a specialist that has been doing it his whole life. You cant expect someone who has spent half his life on the wing in high school to slot into tight head competing with a Englishman who’s done it forever. Just like a USA Eagles player who learnt his trade in college will get bulldozed by a Owen Franks or Os du Rant.in a World Cup match.

      • SweetAz

        MMMMM,–I think its more to do with schoolboys rugby based on merit where the next level up is more exposed to added pigmentation selection criteria. In fact, I think this perfectly exposes just how badly we are hamstrung by the racist “quota” agenda.

      • IRC

        I couldn’t help but notice the absence of Pacific Island Boys in the NZ school teams. Guess that beefiness only comes in the professional teams.

        • SweetAz

          In NZ school sports teams have to fundraise and get parents to chip in which is probably why you see less PI and Maori boys,— it’s simply that their parents are generally not able to afford it. Some of the Auckland schools like Kelston are almost entirely brown and I think they would give most SA schools a run for their money

      • Gazza

        Brilliant observation!

      • Albert

        Interestingly, NZ are looking at dropping their weight classification as they say they are losing potential players due to immaturity. The theory, or should we say fact, is that when you have a big young lad who goes into a weight category with some big older lads, he won’t have the maturity to handle certain aspects and may even get bullied. Thus he decides to quit and is lost to the system despite having potential to be the next superstar.

        Everyone outside of NZ are in awe of their supposed superior system, yet the kiwis themselves are against the very system we idolise.

        The grass truly is greener.

        • boyo

          I read that Albert and your comment hits the nail on the head. There are great things about NZ rugby but not everyting NZ is better and we can compete and win the SA way.

  • Herman Schroder?

    I do agree that the players must take responsibility for their own performances but to say that in SR most of them have been there and done that is pushing it a bit. Most of our Franchises have been woeful and individuals hopelessly inconsistent. I fear for the mental fortitude of these players when they have been hammered so repeatedly in SR these past few years with the obvious sole exception. I wonder how the Bok run on team will look later on today it should be very interesting.

    Some clarity on the sole Heyneke Meyer AB victory in 2014 in eight matches against the old enemy. The Boks leapt into a big lead before the AB’s usual ‘come from behind’ show to lead with two minutes to go. The tv producer then shamefully drew attention to the ‘hit’ and the rest is history. A valid penalty no doubt but the method used at the time not so. Not long after that they restricted the role of the tv guys during matches, so things could have been even worse for poor old HM. Mind you it could also be payback for all the times we’ve been cranked over there, lol.

    Sorry guys but I also had a good chuckle while watching Mitchell’s Lions team on SS savaging the Sharkettes in the 2011 CC final on SS. That was unfortunately to be among the last of the strength vs strength ‘real’ CC years. The Sharkies had 15 Springboks in their 23 man squad plus flyhalf Michelak, The Lions had only four Bokkies as well as a young Whiteley on the bench. I could see what Mitchell was trying to do at the time with his all out rugby and what he tried to do with the Bulls this year. Very few of the Lions team that year survived to form the formidable unit we had post 2014 so Ackers and Co did do a great job in bringing on the new crop of players through and kudos to them. Cheers.

  • John Comyn

    Thanks Dan – at last somebody said it. We appear to reward mediocrity at times. It’s abundantly clear who the slackers are. The best example of a player who is anything but a slacker is Malcolm Marx. Apparently his work ethic in training is phenomenal. He takes his career seriously and is his own worst critic and above all he appreciates the gift he has been given. Guess where he is in a very short space of time? 1st / 2nd best hooker in the world! That is the commitment you want from all contracted players.

  • Wesley

    Dan, you speak the truth. We have seen this happen before, with grit and determination expected and required from a highly-paid athlete, we have done wonders in patches at Bok level, but the most standout across the graph of best to worst performances, are those bad losses like 46-0 vs Aus, 53-3 vs Eng, 57-0 vs NZ etc etc. Are we afraid or mentally not up to it most times of the year? Players going through the motions or just tired? I refuse to accede that its due to us not being as good as the opposition. It is time we stop relying on monster play only and properly testing our skills, things we definitely have. Many players are specimens that are able to do this, Marx just one good example of a bashing player upping his skill-sets and becoming the best in the world in his position. 2015 he came on as an impact runner, but his lineout was suspect and poaching was not on his to-do list. Look at him now. Eben is also one that seems unfulfilled looking at the specimen you have at hand. He has done great but always feels he could do more with what he has. Pollard able to become a rugby genius with power. Dyantyi still young but see him with potential to get 100 caps. Kolisi as well, busting on the scene but now has drifted into mediocrity, finding his way back under a captaincy that should inspire him, not be a burden as what the Stormers captaincy has done for him. I can go on and on… Start to get some blerrie pride and flames under the arses!!! …sorry got bit carried away in the end there…

    • Herman Schroder?

      Totally agree with your sentiments Wesley especially Kolisi. I’m a bit confused with your Pollard comment though. Pollard a rugby genius ? Was it sarcasm or your actual perception of him ? Imo a rugby genius he most certainly isn’t if one takes into account his sporadic appearances for the Boks these past few years. He even played flyhalf when we lost to Japan, lol.

      Mental strength and fortitude seriously missing from the Boks these past few years which imo seemed to coincide when merit was sacrificed on the alter of transformation. A test player cannot give of his best knowing that no matter how well he does he can be dumped due to political considerations. I know Rassie got his job due to his ‘buy in’ but if the RC goes pear shaped he may just find things becoming a bit uncomfortable in the coaching box and in the eyes of joe public. Honeymoon or nightmare. Cheers.

      • John Comyn

        Herman you are hardly one to question someones comment on rugby geniuses. You think Elton Jantjies is a genius for crying out loud.

        • Herman Schroder?

          And I haven’t changed my tune. When surrounded by donkeys in a brain dead game plan he does find it difficult to lower the standard of his play. Give him a real expansive game plan and skilled players around him who know what to do and how to support him then he has no peer in SA rugby.

          However if no frills rugby is your game then by all means let the dom krag brigade take over ie Pollard and Co. Problem is we’ll have exactly the same results we’ve had over the past five years.

          No other flyhalf in SA has a better track record than Elton. Let us see how the other guys go and let’s also magnify their mistakes the way Elton’s are so we can see how they respond to the incessant and often vicious attacks. By sticking it out he has shown admirable fortitude and strength of character, I won’t even mention how physically tough he is when the others play the odd game between long injury layoffs. Chalk and Cheese old chap. Cheers.

        • SweetAz

          Herman likes to cherry-pick his facts to suit his narrative. It’s going to be very entertaining next year with the core of Lions gone to hear how he justifies their decline. I keep telling him, the only reason they are doing well is because the core of their team has been together longer than any other South African franchise, they are cohesive and know what their teammates will do,–that only comes with playing together for an extended period. Absolutely nothing to do with “expansive rugby” or “Domkrag Rugby”. Rugby is a team sport and the most cohesive teams normally do best,–its why the AB’s don’t make changes just sommer sommer.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Wrong !! 90% of the Lions players have re-signed for the Lions with Mostert’s position still to be finalized. Two props leaving may be a problem but otherwise it’s business as usual.

            Wrong !! A fixed team with a winning culture is a plus but their game plan is the main reason they rose above the mediocre others. True story. Cheers.

      • Just Saying

        Lambie was the starting flyhalf against Japan, and Pollard started all the RWC 2015 matches thereafter with the Springboks narrowly losing to the All Blacks in the semi. Pollard also had the second most point at the RWC. His rugby CV is a proud one, the only captaincy that he does not yet have is the Springbok captaincy, but I suspect that Rassie will try him as captain before the RWC next year.

        • Herman Schroder?

          The Boks had an easy ride at the WC in the pool stage and still lost to Japan, lol. They were even pretty lucky with a last minute try against Wales in the QF while behind on the scoreboard. Vermeulen’s first ever pass in his rugby career finding FdP and saving the day. So an exit at QF stage would probably have been a fairer reflection of just how poor they really were.

          The AB’s never looked like losing the semi if truth be told despite the close scoreline which flattered the Boks. The Boks played dom krag 101 for 80 minutes to keep the score down. Finishing third after all that and the flyhalf gets a pass mark ? Gee how we idolize mediocrity. Cheers.

  • Vossie

    But are our players mentally up to the challenge? Coaches in the past have selected players out of desperation and putting them in front of an All black team doing the Haka in New Zealand which by no means is for the faint of heart, so if you are not mentally prepared you will get hurt and that rubs off on the rest of the team. I agree that the players need to be accountable for poor performances, if a player is not mentally up for it then it’ll be a looong day at the office, this of course is the responsibility of the player. Pride plays a very big role as well, you have to be prepared to die for the green and gold jersey, Springbok pride has been lost a long the way and teams dont have that fear when playing against us anymore, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Wales would not dare to think that they might be able to beat the Boks in the past, now they are backing themselves. This is something that needs to change and the only way is to hold the players accountable.

    Good article and great comments!

    • SweetAz

      I know its been done to death but this whole haka kaka nonsense really irks me, one team gets to jump around pulling faces warming up and getting a psychological lift while the other team must just stand there and take it,—its bullshit and an unfair advantage in a sport where small margins make the difference. I say if they MUST do the haka let them do it, but the other team can be wherever they want to be, even in the change room or behind the posts in a huddle and at least 5 minutes must elapse before kick-off after they have done it.

      • Just Saying

        Perhaps you should have a look at the history of the haka and the importance of the haka in NZ before you make such comments.

        • SweetAz

          That is totally irrelevant and a strawman argument, every country has its own culture. The point is we don’t use our culture to disadvantage the opposition, the Scots don’t paint themselves blue for a rugby match and Africans don’t go around performing stone age rituals and cursing their opponents making Voodoo dolls and pricking them with pins. Respecting culture is a two-way street, I grew up in a culture where it’s RUDE to stick out your tongue, pull faces and shout aggressively at people,—HOW ABOUT RESPECTING THAT?

          Why should one team be forced to stand and look at something they find offensive while the other team is stretching their muscles, warming up and getting a psychological lift? As I say, if the Haka is so important to you, fine, -do it somewhere where I don’t have to see it or keep it FOR YOUR OWN COUNTRY, its just rude to come to someone else’s home and do something offensive, like wearing your muddy shoes in their house or not curtsying to their Queen—-much like Christians used to go on their knees praying before battle it has no place in a modern sporting environment.

          How would you like it if the next time you do the Haka the opposing team spends the next 5 minutes on their knees praying to whichever Gods they deem appropriate,—be they Thor, Odin, Allah or Jesus Christ? You guys almost went nuts when Israel Folau said gays would go to hell, yet you expect the rest of the world to put up with your stone-age nonsense.

      • Vossie

        Can you imagine the Boks warming up and running drills while the All Blacks are balls deep into their haka. Classic!!!

      • Dean

        Put Impi in front of them! He does the scary face well too.

        • Vossie

          If he can stay on his feet

          • Herman Schroder?

            Good one, lol. Cheers.

  • Tom

    How the narrative has now changed to the players now. Lol. Wow.
    Why am I not surprised. When it was Alistair it was all on him, now again as per your stances when it was heynecke uv shifted theto goal posts.
    Rassie is the coach, he will have to take responsibility for the performance. The same way Alistair was seemingly the biggest issue according to u and your colleagues at news24

    • SweetAz

      All you have to do is compare press conferences to already see the differences,–one guy is confident, has a plan, answers questions straightforwardly and has already admitted to mistakes. On ve ovver hand Darryn, you have a guy clearly clueless and out of his depth obfuscating and making excuses. You pick which one, I didn’t name any names.

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