Boks needed Willemse on the ball

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. After the loss to England I needed a hug, so I went to my wife and I just stood very very close to her for a while. Because apparently we do not need to use our arms anymore.

It did not work, and I did not feel better. But the more I thought about the loss, and the more I look at the footage of the game, the more I get a clearer picture of what happened. Yes, the ref made a mistake with Farrell’s shoulder charge but that did not cost us the game. The many crucial lost lineouts for instance had a much bigger say in our loss.

But there was another issue that jump out for me that I want to talk about today, and that is a problem with the Bok backline attack.

One way of looking at backline attack in rugby is like this: first we must create good conditions for attack, then we must be able to exploit those conditions, and finally we must have the ability to finish.

In terms of players, this is the balance that any backline must have. You must have guys who can play direct and physical to tie up the opposition and manipulate the defence. Then you must have guys with the vision and ability to magnify the cracks that have appeared. And finally you must have finishers with the speed and footwork to close the deal.

If we get this blend wrong then we will see a malfunctioning backline, and this is something the Boks suffered from on Saturday. Let us take a look…

Above we see the first part of the equation. Handre will take the ball up powerfully and make a strong break up the middle. Time and again the Bok forwards and strike runners like De Allende, Pollard and Kriel would make a “breach” in the England lines like this.

It immediately put the home team on the back foot, disorganise the defence, and take away their linespeed. De Allende in particularly severely disrupt the England defence and put the Boks in the pound seat. Boks had no problem creating good conditions for attack.

This is the next phase, and we see part of the problem I am talking about. Handre was tackled, Van Zyl cleared the ball and passed to Jesse at first receiver. We can see Jesse have a chance to put Willemse into a hole to his left, but instead he will carry again and the moment will be lost.

If Willemse and Dyantyi was brought into play who knows what could have happened? Or maybe Jesse could have put in a grubber? But none of this happened because the wrong type of player was brought onto the ball at the wrong time.

Jesse is not a “exploiter” in the same way that Willie for instance is. This is a situation where Willie will normally take charge and magic will happen.

Many times in the match we see good situations like this wasted because the Boks did not have a guy to exploit the opportunities they created. My feeling is that Willemse himself must take charge in a situation like above, come in at first receiver, and bring that balance into the backline play.

Here is another example of the Boks doing everything right to create the conditions for attack but then unable to exploit it. De Allende make a monster carry up the middle and then the ball come out to Pieter-Steph at first receiver.

He will carry again and the opportunity down the left is lost, and again we can say that Willemse should have taken charge. Either he must take that position at first receiver, or he must be in a position where he can call for the ball from Pieter-Steph and then try to release Kriel and Dyantyi down the left.

It is the way the Boks organise themself sometimes in play that really hurt them in this match.

Another problem is that sometimes the players who is meant to be able to exploit opportunities can not do it. Above we see a very subtle but crucial example of this.

Handre is releasing Damian down the right, but he is passing too early. We can see the 8th man Wilson is already simply shifting and closing Damian’s space. A true “exploiter” like Willie will first fix the England defender before releasing Damian and Nkosi down the left.

I do not want to hammer Handre too much because he have value in other ways, but above we see another example where he (unbelievably) will carry instead of simply trying to put Duane into that wonderful gap. We can see that May is occupied by Nkosi who is out of frame, so the try is on.

Above we see another example of a wasted opportunity. I am a huge fan of Damian, but while he was one of the top Springboks in term of creating the conditions for attack, he was poor in being able to exploit it. He have many options to his right, but instead he will cut inside and carry again.

Again, if Willie or a player like Willemse had inserted himself at this crucial moment we will have see a much more positive outcome. We need that balance!

What we are saying is that sometimes the wrong players was on the ball at crucial times, and sometimes players who is meant to be able to dictate could not do it. This is two very different problem with two very different solutions.

But now I want to draw your attention to the brief spell that Elton Jantjies had at the end.

Above we see Elton get the ball with a clear opportunity to his left. Elton may not be as physical as Handre, but he is one the best “exploiters” in South African rugby. As he get the ball we can see him sum up the situation.

I am sure you agree by now how many times the Boks mess up this kind of opportunities, but let us see what Elton will do…

This is more like it. Elton will firstly wait until the last possible moment to make his play, and secondly he will then take the right decision by passing to the correct runner. He will draw the defence, put Damian into a beautiful open lane and a huge gain is made.

I only mention this because it is a example of how we can bring balance to the Springbok attack. If a guy like Willie is not playing, then perhaps we must consider someone like Elton at 10 to pull the strings that need pulling.

Or we must force a bigger role on Willemse to take charge at crucial moments. Whatever the answer, we must sort it out quickly because I think this cost us more than anything else this weekend against England.

The good news is that we doing all the right things to create opportunities, and we have some wonderful finishers, we just need players who can build a bridge between them!

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • boyo

    Thanks Oom I learn more about the game from your articles than I learned in my years on the field.

    • Oom

      cheers hey! thanks for the comment

  • Lesego

    Fantastic insight this.

    While understandable that Damian Willemse might struggle to assert himself in his first test, I’m worried that Handre is not playing these moments better. Can the coaches connect enough with him to improve this facet of his play?

    • Oom

      it is historical with Handre and De Allende and their different limitations they have with vision. I do not see why it can not be coachable

  • SweetAz

    Ag nonsense oom ;-) Its just all the domkrag domkrag domkrag, the bad coach, and the fact there aren’t enough Lions players in the team.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Sarcasm I know but so very true. I’ve been singing OOM’s tune for five years now to no avail. And people wonder why I keep repeating myself. Cheers.

      • SweetAz

        No Mate, we know very well why you keep repeating yourself. Its because you are a narcissistic egotistic prat. Normally that would be fine, its just irritating because you add nothing of value, its the same drek over and over again. The day you come up with something innovative and intelligent to say it will be a cold day in hell,- you spam these boards with the same thing over and over again to the extent you will probably be banned from here again.
        Do yourself and everybody else a favour and learn a new tune. The old one is stale and has been for a long time now.

  • Chris Mouton

    Oom, hitting the nail on the head again! These are exactly the reasons why I was yelling at my TV. It’s all good and well that De Allende was playing the battering ram and gain metres, but he can’t pass. Imagine what would happen if he carries it strong 3 times and then pass to a player in space on the 4th time. Perish the thought. This is also why I’m not praising Willemse, as he wasn’t playing anywhere close to his potential. Elton had a few good touches when he came on. Pity he didn’t play more. Would’ve loved to see more of him and Pollard playing together.

    I honestly hope that the Springboks are reading your analysis. In fact, does anyone have the e-mail addresses of the coaching staff? They can seriously benefit from your astute analysis!

    • Herman Schroder?

      Exactly what I’ve been saying for years. Cheers.

  • Pierre

    Baie goed opgesom Oom. Om goeie besluitnemers te he in die agterlyn is so belangrik. Spelers in die loskakel en heelagter posisie moet die situasie vinnig kan opsom en sien waar hulle spelers in spasie kan sit. Ek dink ons besluitneming van al ons spelers is SA moet nog baie verbeter, eenvoudige goed soos om spelers te trek en die bal te laat gaan op die regte tyd en om die verdeging aan die raai te hou. Is wel baie positief oor ons rugby en die Bokke se strukture lyk goed.

  • Chelogoi

    Great analysis really to go with the graphics.

  • AK

    “Hi guys. After the loss to England I needed a hug, so I went to my wife and I just stood very very close to her for a while. Because apparently we do not need to use our arms anymore.” LOL brilliant!

    • Chris Mouton

      Yeah, I had a chuckle at that!

  • D John

    Im just here to save Herman time. Its a pleasure Herman, use the time for something more productive. Here is his usual:

    If that’s ”traditional SA rugby” then heaven help us. Stampkar and skop with no skill and vision and a serious lack of creativity were there for all to see yesterday. Rassie’s dom krag game plan once again emphasized why Willie and Faf were sorely missed and proved once more that we are on the wrong track.

    Rassie must shoulder a lot of the blame here. His win ratio of a lucky 45% is AC territory and let’s be brutally honest despite a fortuitous win in Wellington the inconsistency is horrendous. From a skills point of view, the team has shown very little improvement after ELEVEN tests. We are being fooled by the fact that we have merely become competitive whereas as Boks we should be imposing ourselves on our opponents and winning comfortably playing positive expansive rugby. The Wales / Scotland test yesterday will show you what I mean and we play both of them on this tour.

    All the talk before this game was how we need to soften them up physically and pepper them with high balls, in other words, play our traditional dom krag rugby which has failed us since 2009, lol. Lack of skills is a by-product of being brought up on a diet of no risk rubbish bourne out by the fact that we didn’t even attempt one offload yesterday. Even worse was the fact that this England team was woefully under strength with 19 first call players out and relatively inexperienced whereas we were practically at full strength.

    Which brings me to the makeup of this team. I’m sorry to bring in Provincialism here but wasn’t it rather strange that the two worst performing teams in SR had 16 representatives in a squad of 23 ?? I know it’s ones individual skills that usually gets you into a test team but what about the mindset and mental strength of that player. Being klapped week in and week out in SR hardly builds up a winning mentality. This may explain the inconsistency in the Boks performances and Rassie’s Stormers / WP and Bulls overkill must be challenged.

    I’ve said before that Rassie is trying to serve too many ‘masters’ and it will catch up with him. His transformation goals are still way out of line with white dominance still very apparent, yet we are still losing regularly. With six tests to go before WC the 50 / 50 ‘must have’ seems to be a pipe dream at the moment.

    I’ve previously stated that bringing in overseas players for tests is not the way forward despite Willie and Faf saving us on numerous occasions. You cannot build a team culture with bits and pieces flying in from Europe at the behest of their ‘owners’ to think you can create a formidable Bok team with a unified team culture. NZ and Ireland don’t do it and that’s good enough for me.

    Rassie is a great guy no doubt but as a coach, he is extremely naive. Provincialism is apparent, the transformation is floundering and ‘mercenaries’ are affecting continuity and doing more harm than good. Couple that with an outdated pre-dinosaur game plan and quite a few players lacking basic skills, mental strength and a vision for modern rugby then you will get what we have now, mediocrity. In my opinion, nothing has changed since the EOYT of 2014. We are still in the doldrums and hero’s are now urgently required. Cheers.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Thanks for that DJ, it’s tough being an oracle of note only to be chastised by the unenlightened on these forums. But I let the results speak the truth. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      LOL,—so I’m not the only one gatvol of him then.

      • Herman Schroder?

        But was I right or not ? Shooting the messenger is poor form old chap. Another prediction from yours truly spot on. Cheers.

      • Greg Shark

        a growing club? At least DJ had something relevant to say despite the ‘domkrag’ references…

        • Herman Schroder?

          Greg you do know that the entire article was mine, right ? A touch of egg on the face there I see. Cheers.

        • SweetAz

          Yeah, he seems stuck on the “domkrag” track, Personally, I think this Bok team and coaching staff are MILES ahead of the AC era,- everyone seems happier and more comfortable in their skins and they seem to have regained pride and passion. And while the win percentage may not be great, the team looks competitive all the time, none of those 57-nil drubbings.
          I don’t think he truly understands what “domkrag” means. Domkrag is what the Blue Bulls used to play with Naas Botha, its 10 man rugby with lots of dropkicks after gaining territorial position. Hermie seems to think if you are unable to manipulate defences with an offload you are playing “domkrag”, he doesn’t understand the nuances of creating mismatches etc. Even the crash-ball as so aptly shown by Oom Rugby is a tactic designed to CREATE, as long as the right support players are involved.
          His constant repetitive negative refrain just makes me the moer-in, the sheer arrogance to think that nobody else but him has the answer just grinds my gears, and the denial and inability to accept criticism of any Lions player demonstrates a level childishness and closed-mindedness I expect from the likes of Julius Mal-emmer.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Wow I think you need counselling old chap. You’re making this far too personal. You know that you don’t have to read my posts if you are so intolerant of my opinions. It’s quite simple really.

            Oom showed exactly what I’ve been talking about and instead of lambasting the Boks for such dom krag rubbish you prefer to shoot the messenger. I’ve been watching the Lions / NZ teams for many years and know exactly what the nuances of the expansive game entails, so the truth appears to be sticking in your craw here. Deal with it.

            By the way I do this with a smile on my face and for the fun of it, one of my many stress saving hobbies. Suggest you try it. Cheers.

  • John Comyn

    Good assessment Oom. I thought De Allende was outstanding. He certainly made England’s hit man Te’o look like a boy scout. I also think Damian got isolated a number times with no support runners around him. Faf would have made a huge difference in that aspect as would Willie have. Big difference with the AB’s is they always have 2 or 3 support runners on the ball carriers shoulder. I don’t know what to make of Jessie. Sometimes I think he is brain dead. There was one occasion when England were on attack he came off his line and inexplicably made a bolt for the 10 / 12 channel leaving a huge overlap.(you would probably have seen that in your recording). Fortunately the scramble defense was good. The truth is we should have put 20 – 30 points over them.

    • Barry

      Really John, de Allende passed once in 80 minutes of rugby, once!!! For Pete’s sake, even the tight forwards passed more than that! Bash it up once or twice, fine, keeps the opposition guessing, but when that’s all you can do, then we need to look at someone else. I just don’t see how you get “outstanding” out of a player that single handedly nullified our back line?

      • Johan

        Thanks Barry I just wanted to make the same point :)

        One pass in 80 minutes is ridiculous

    • Chris Mouton

      Jessie is a good athlete, but a crap rugby player. He shows no mental aptitude whatsoever. If he had a smidgen of common sense he would’ve run off the shoulder of De Allende in order to exploit the gap that De Allende created. If De Allende pulls all the defensive attention and can give an offload to Jessie, Jessie can create the overlap by pulling the outside defense and sending our dangerous wings away for the score. There lies the problem…Neither De Alllende or Kriel can pass…

      • Herman Schroder?

        Dom and dommer in action. Cheers.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Dom and dommer, lol. Cheers.

  • dbaggins

    Mooi uitgeleg Oom
    This shows the true value of soft skills and understanding space. A good example would be Nonu. Who was/is also a 12 who liked to carry strongly and take on the gain line. But his biggest asset for the AB’s was when his decision making became top notch in the second half of his career. Even though he liked contact, he never seemed to miss much of these opportunities to exploit space either…… As a coach that is true gold, player like that is worth 3 players.

    Also very odd that Wilemse was not poping into first receiver, especially as that is the scenario created for a player like him

    • Tobokani

      Willemse in his first start was probably under very strict instructions to maintain backline shape, he started popping up more at first receiver in the second half though.. On another note, the speed of Ivan van Zyl’s service was rather slow which helped England’s rush(offside) defence.. Our speed of play picked up when Papier came on..

  • Albert

    Once again, Oom, you have done a fantastic review of the situation. It is very plain and simple to see that the issue isn’t our game plan, but our implementation of said plan. Handre, great player that he is, seems to be lacking the understanding or confidence to pull it off. Elton, for his attacking flair and ability, doesn’t have the BMT to be there in my opinion. I still believe though, that we should have Elton and Handre as our 10-12 channel, with DDA as our reserve 12.

    I noticed that Willemse seemed to be playing to a script to avoid being put under pressure. He was standing further away and seemed to either kick or pass instead of playing heads up.

    We definitely missed Willie being the wizard but I think Van Zyl was good and Papier was very quick when he got on.

    All in all, with some tweaking and confidence I think this Bok team is very good and have complete faith in the coaching team. We just need a kicking coach!

    • Herman Schroder?

      Albert I think it is the game plan but it goes further back than test rugby. These guys don’t play expansively at their Franchises ( except the Lions ) and therefore do not instinctively react correctly in pressure situations. You get very few scoring opportunities in a test so obviously the chances must be taken.

      I also don’t believe players should be taught skill levels while playing tests. They must hone these skills at SR level until they can show they have mastered them. Willemse a case in point. Some will never master them and shouldn’t make the cut. We have too many one dimensional players in the current squad especially if you take Willie and Faf out of the mix. This was patently clear last Saturday. Cheers.

  • Barry

    Thanks Dan, a great read.

    At the risk of once again repeating myself, Damien de Allende passed “once” in 80 minutes of rugby. QED end of back line! Give Esterhuizen a chance, he has about a 50/50 ratio of run to pass, that’s more like it, and he has a good off-load!

    Like many, I was quite vocal with my concerns over the selection at 15 and 9, more so because we have relied on these two slots to make the magic, so replacing them with two inexperienced chaps was high risk! Though Erasmus has ticked both boxes, I am pleased that you covered the inadequacies at 15. It is not that Willemse was bad per se, but more that he was not able to bring what we are used to in that position, be it through lack of skill or experience. If Willie is injured, we still have a problem in my view!

    The same is the position at 9. Van Zyl was not bad, but he was not great either. Between Van Zyl and Papier they made zero metres! Van Zyl tested the line 4 times unsuccessfully and Papier only re-cycled! Between them, they made 97 passes, but only varied their play on 4 occasions!! You’ve got to appreciate just how easy that is to read on defence! By contrast, Faf in the New Zealand test had only 61 passes of whilst he took the line on 7 times and made 10m! Again, if he gets injured, we are in trouble!

    • Greg Shark

      Maybe Reinach and Lambie need a recall to help right the ship and create some attacking shape?

      • SweetAz

        I had high hopes for Lambie, but the guy is either a bit fragile or just plain unlucky. Personally, I don’t like either characteristic in my team. He’s at the SBW or NMS stage of his career,–one good match followed by a 6-month injury recovery period.

    • Tobokani

      I think Willemse was playing to instructions to be fair, it was his 1st start at the Mecca of rugby no less. We keep forgetting that the kid is only 20 years old but we saw what he is capable off with that one little break he made. He will definitely get better with more game time.
      Ivan van Zyl on the other hand seems to be a solid super rugby player but just doesn’t cut it in Tests. He presents no running threat, his service is slow and his kicks are very telegraphed. Papier might make some mistakes at this early stage of his career but if we invested all of van Zyl’s minutes in Papier, the payoff would be huge in a year or two due to the raw materials of speed and x-factor that he comes with..

  • Barry

    Fair enough Tobokani, I appreciate that they are just young guys trying their best on the big stage, but what I’m not happy about is why they have the privilege of looking for their potential in national colours? Most other youngsters have to endure three or four seasons of Super Rugby and perhaps a stint overseas before they come into contention. In these circumstances we are rewarding potential, not form. It is our National side and really the jersey deserves a little more respect!

  • Jerri

    As usual Oom you make the game better. WHy is it that so many think that Damian Donkey is the right donkey for the position?

  • Duncan

    Willemse at 10 Pollard at 12. Rassie should give this combination a go now before the world cup year. It will give us much better vision at 10 and more kicking options. Pollard can still take it to the line if needed but can also try to bring our outside backs onto play occasionally which never ever happens with Damian or Esterhuizen at 12. Added bonus to bring Willie in to add extra variety on attack.

    • Barry

      Sorry but battling to follow the logic here? Oom highlights major shortfalls that Willemse had in the less pressurised position of 15, so the solution is to put more pressure on at 10?

  • Coenie Groenewald

    Willemse not international material yet. He should get more experience in Super rugby. At under 20 level he could get away with sidestepping everything. He is far behind Jantjies wrt ball distribution.

  • Theuns Botha

    Agree somewhat, and somewhat not. Shows for good inroads made with building depth if we are starting to argue about which of three receivers should be on the field. March on, Rassie !!!!!!

  • Theuns Botha

    We should get to the All Black position where every position is debatable except maybe for Read, Retallick and Taylor.

  • Roland

    Ja, good article Oom, but don’t forget the speed that these guys play at. A guy like Elton doesn’t like contact, but it does make him a fantastic distributer because of that self preservation. Willie is the same as he never looks for contact either. Both are poor defenders though, but Elton gets flustered to easy when he is under pressure with 2 people charging on him.

    De Allende and Pollard on the other are both big and love contact. But what Rassie could have done is perhaps alter his game pattern and allow for support runners to come off Pollard or De Allende. In all of their breaks, there was not a single player running off their shoulder or coming from deep. You could bring your blind side winger in and make him stand deep so that the defence don’t pick him up, he could time his run in anticipation of a break.

    I don’t think Willemse would have done better as his first instinct would be to take the man on and try to step him. We have to many eager ball carriers and i also think that if you want to use your forwards, then you need a player like whitely who has fantastic hands and in a better position to link up with his outside backs.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Agree with a lot of what you said but I think you are underrating Jantjies. He’s as tough as nails and while he gets steamrollered because of his height at times, he still doesn’t shirk the big guys running at him. Some of the others like DDA choose their tackles and avoid the head on’s with a subtle slowing down of pace.

      Jantjies also has no equal in this country at the real expansive game as Oom pointed out in his clip. He’s done the hard years in SR but we are not using his obvious talents in the tests because of our outdated game plan which suits the Pollard’s of this world. The trouble is the other countries know exactly what we will bring to the table. As Eddie Jones stated it’s ‘simple’ to play against the Boks. Cheers.

  • Sue

    Spot on analysis.
    The solution is playing in the 12 jersey for Montpellier….Frans Steyn.
    The axis in 2007; 2009 and 2011 in the 12 jersey for winning Bok teams….
    Still only 30 years old; buckets of BMT and more “nous” in his one hand than Allende and Kriel combined..
    Been there…done it…T-shirt to prove it…
    But doesn’t fit the old Bok mould Rassie uses; with his tweaks; to lift these Boks to some semblance of a winning combination.
    Suppose a similar situation to Pienaar/Strauss in the ’95 WC squad…..or Skinstadt/Teichmann 5 years later.
    Not getting Steyn into the WC squad asap is a fatal; BIG miscalculation.
    2; 4; 8; 9; 10; 12; 15 spine for WC ’19…?
    Marx; Vermeulen; de Klerk; Pollard; Steyn; le Roux..
    Sounds like fireworks to me..

    • Herman Schroder?

      Sounds like dom krag to me, lol. Cheers.

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