Hi guys. Ag man, it is never lekker to write a article after a Bok loss, and it is even worst after a performance like the game against Ireland. It is hard because we don’t want to continual beat our boys with a stick, yet at the same time we want to understand what is happening and where problems lies.
A lot have been said already by others so I thought today I will just chat about something that come to light for me.
I want to talk about Dick Muir.
Dick was not the most fast Springbok to ever play the game – in fact there is a funny story where in one game a linesman get to the tryline before him. Dick did not have huge burst of speed, he did not step you out your boots, and he was not a physical monster. But in many ways Dick was the most crucial member of the record-breaking Springboks of Nick Mallett in 1998.
I think it is safe to say that if Dick was a player now and he get chosen for the Boks the public will be very upset! But “boring” players like Muir is exactly the kind of guys the Boks need. His calmness, game sense, awareness, rugby IQ and “feel” got Mallett’s Springboks ticking.
Let’s take a look at what I mean. In the picture below we see that Marx have the ball and there is four Boks outside him. Ireland is scrambling on defence and is outnumbered.
The first point I want to make is that the big Bok carries actually had the desired effect. Yes the carries sometimes maybe look ineffective, but time and again they forcing such a big commitment by the Irish to stop them that space open up elsewhere. We don’t just judge a tight carry by meters gained, we judge it by how it affect the defence. We can clearly see here after the previous ruck that Boks has created opportunity on the far side.
But now we see the problem that haunt the Boks – it is a inability to see and exploit the space they create. Malcolm is a incredible rugby player but unfortunately he will just put his head down and charge. The opportunity is lost.
It can be that the Bok pattern call for another midfield carry here, or maybe Malcolm just did not see what is developing? Whatever the case, the picture above is the missing link in the Bok game. We manage to create opportunities but we can not take advantage of them. And if Malcolm was not aware then the blame lie with his team mates for not communicating the space to him.
Above we see something that plague the Bok backline and it is the other missing link in our game. Again our boys has manufacture some space on the far side. Damian is passing the ball but I think it is quite clear what the problem is; he pass so flippen early that the Irish can make a cup of tea and then shift across to cover the next man!
I am a huge Damian fan for his all round skills, but it is here that we realise that if we truly want to take opportunities then we need ball players in this team.
Damian must straighten, fix the defender, and pass. What we see above is the extent of the opportunities you will get in a Test. If you do not have natural ball players with the rugby IQ and “feel” to maximise this small chances then you will never win.
We are talking here about a selection problem. Our coaches must change their metrics to favour guys who is maybe less flashy but who has a natural feel and understanding of rugby. What will a Harold Vorster or a Lionel Mapoe do in a situation like this?
This is another example of the same sindrome. Another Bok opportunity lost. Jesse get the ball and attack the last Irish defender on the outside. If he can fix this man then he can release Courtnall into open space. But look at Courtnall… instead of reading play and drifting out for the pass, he stay straight and run at the same defender that Jesse is attacking!
It is a mystery. Look how Courtnall have now made himself a target for that last Irish defender. Jesse can not pass to him. If Courtnall went wider he was gone.
I leave my worse one for last. What we see above is the Boks messing up their running lines on a set-piece play. Elton is taking the ball up after a scrum and Coetzee and Kriel run a shape off him. But what we can see in the picture is that all three players is hitting the same hole!
Either Coetzee was suppose to run a scissors to the outside, or Jesse was meant to run a fade to the outside. Maybe someone forgot the play, or they change their mind at the last second, but it is a mess. But regardless, we expect a Test player to read, react and adjust.
I don’t bring up this examples because I necessarily want to target that specific players – sometimes they do good things and other times, other guys mess up. I am just bringing to our attention that we will never get anywhere if we do not cultivate and select guys with game sense and feel. Forget just speed, strength, stepping and whatnot for the moment. What we need is brains and rugby “savvy”.
Simply put, the opportunities is there. We are creating them. Now we must just find the guys who can finish them.
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.