Boks waking from nightmare

Craig Ray

On September 21, 2019, exactly a year from today the Springboks and All Blacks clash in Yokohama at Rugby World Cup Japan, and until a week ago victory in that match was seen as a formality for New Zealand.

But as coaches love to cliché, ‘a week is a long time in rugby.’ Never has that been more accurate than these past six days.

The local rugby firmament and the broader South African public have been floating on a pillow of euphoria this week, and it’s not because the private use of Dagga was legalised.

The Boks beating the All Blacks is a rare occurrence these days and winning in New Zealand has become a one-in-a-generation feat, so last week’s 36-34 victory in Wellington was well worth celebrating and glowing over.

There is a significant but subtle difference to a once off win against the All Blacks, as opposed to beating any other team.

The All Blacks have set the bar so high that teams, which beat them, in a match that really matters, are excellent teams themselves.

Yes, the All Blacks lost 23-18 to a mediocre Australia in Brisbane last year, but that rubber was as dead as a Brontosaurus. New Zealand was already showing signs of being human after their titanic struggle against the Lions earlier in the year.

In matches that really matter, the All Blacks have only suffered a handful of losses in a decade.

Ireland’s win over the All Blacks in Chicago in late 2016 was a signal that their growth as a team was in full bloom, which has seen the Irish rise to No 2 in the world rankings.

The British & Irish Lions’ win in Wellington last year was achieved by a team made up of the best players from those islands, forged together for a short time, under an astute coach.

And this made the Springboks’ win last week hugely significant because bad teams don’t beat the All Blacks – especially in New Zealand.

It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Boks but coach Rassie Erasmus is showing the steel needed for the job. He has claimed there is a plan and a process and he hasn’t wavered. An indication that his vision should perhaps be trusted, was rammed home in Wellington last week.

Not much can be read into the loss against Wales in Washington in June because only two starters that day – Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jesse Kriel – started three months later against the All Blacks in Wellington.

Erasmus moved closer to his dream 23 in the England series and despite his mixing and matching in the opening stages of the Rugby Championship, the team that started in Wellington, appears to be as near to full strength as possible.

There are only nine Tests remaining before the start of RWC 2019 and some certainties are emerging while other problematic areas are being highlighted.

The tight five looks cast in stone for the foreseeable future with exceptional players such as RG Snyman and Tendai Mtawarira set for reserve roles.

The back row still needs tweaking, but Pieter-Steph has solved some problems with his huge contribution as a ball-carrying, big-tackling No 7. With Jean-Luc Du Preez back in the mix and the all round skills of Marcell Coetzee to call on, there are options.

No 8 Warren Whiteley finally proved his Test credentials with a huge performance in Wellington. Whiteley should still be understudy to Duane Vermeulen when he returns to the squad, but after Wellington, that no longer feels like a crisis.

Scrumhalf remains a problematic position with Faf de Klerk either brilliant or poor while Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier and Ross Cronje have a handful of minutes between them. Faf is clearly first choice, but despite his assertion that he needs to build depth; it’s one position Erasmus has not shared. All his eggs are in De Klerk’s basket.

Handré Pollard did enough in Wellington to prove (again) that when it comes to the big occasion he rises to it. Elton Jantjies clearly has the coach’s backing and is performing better for it. The Boks need at least two viable flyhalf options and Erasmus has put his cards on the table. They are the pair he will back to Japan.

When fit, Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende are clearly at the top of the midfield pecking order while Willie le Roux’s mercurial skills are worth enduring because of the X-factor he brings.

Aphiwe Dyantyi is probably the first name on the team sheet these days. He creates more space from nothing than the Big Bang, while a fit again S’bu Nkosi is likely to seal the other wing position.

More broadly the Boks are starting to come to grips with their roles defensively and the team culture appears to be thriving under Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi.

The Boks will not go into RWC 2019 as favourites, but their win in NZ last week proved that Erasmus and his management are finding answers to a lot of questions.

And that should worry the hell out of any opposition.

- Craig Ray

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    I think Erasmus is a long way from done!
    There are a number of players that we can pencil in as dead certain, BUT he needs to find a 50% mix, and that is why he will continue to chop and change!
    Scrum half is particularly concerning. Erasmus has confirmed his concerns by having Embrose Papier on the bench, but giving him little game time. I suspect that come WC 2019 he may realise that Papier is not ready yet and will be forced to look at a Reinhard or Ross Cronje, which means one of the other so called “dead certs” will miss out!
    Trevor Nyakane is on his way back and covers 1 & 3, will Thom Du Toit and Wilco get dear Johns’?
    It is an emotive issue for a lot of rugby supporters, but it is reality and one that sits firmly at Erasmus’s door!
    For these reasons, the final selection may be a long way different from what we currently see as obvious!

    • Greg Shark

      Stephen Ungerer….23 years old and a forgotten name, or more accurately never even considered, has shown a lot of enterprise for the Pumas. He leaves year end to join the Cheetahs in Pro14….. Rassie could do a lot worse by picking Cronje while the other names van zyl and papier have a lot of homework to do before they’re ready to re-write the big test….

  • Yaseen

    “The local rugby firmament and the broader South African public have been floating on a pillow of euphoria this week, and it’s not because the private use of Dagga was legalised.”

    Good one!

    • Greg Shark

      the truth – “floating on a pillow of euphoria”.
      the fake – “private use of Dagga was legalized”….. still illegal until the laws are changed irrespective of Con Court ruling…

  • John Comyn

    Thomas DT may be the unfortunate one. Coenie is back with The Sharks this weekend. If all goes well in the next few months he will be chosen ahead of Thomas (I think). Trevor’s spot is as good as done.

    • Barry Smith

      Yes agreed John. Though Erasmus may try and save a further slot here, by going with a swinger prop like Trevor thus cutting his props to five rather than six. That being the case both Du Toit and Louw may be casualties! Tough stuff isn’t it!

      • Greg Shark

        Du Toit was sublime last evening…. Coenie a bit rusty….early days still but should a blubbery Malherbe be in the mix at all?

  • Albert

    The fact of the matter is you need at least one player of colour in every position for the world cup.

    Marvin Ori
    Salmaan Moerat

    That’s a decent squad really. Add in the likes of Kolbe, Willemse and Bosch and you can see that a 50% make up is possible.

    Some of the above mentioned names have not been tested properly and I’m certain I have left some talented players out. The bottom line is that we need to be building both depth and combinations and that is why Rassie has been struggling a bit. And the 50% government directive will not disappear.

    I really hope, come world cup time, we have all three.

    • SweetAz

      “Decent”,—LOL, Ist that how far we have fallen? Are people now so brainwashed that “decent” is OK in the pursuit of excellence? I thank God every day that I am not a young person trying to make a life in this new reality where up is down, fat is thin, stupid is clever, men are women and women are metoo and the whole world has gone mad.

      • Albert

        You are such a negative dinosaur. I was merely stating that we have enough players of colour to meet the government directive and still be a world class side. But you are so racist and bigoted that you only see the negative.

        Welcome to 2018, where Donald Trump is president, white farm murders mean nothing to the people in charge and New Zealand lose to a ‘decent’ team once every 9 years or so.

        Apologies if I have offended you in any way, should we rather talk about all the sweet thingz in life?

        • Dean

          As it stands, bar injuries IMO: Willie, Gelant, Nkosi, Dyantyi, Mapimpi, De Allende, Am, Serfontein, Pollard, Jantjies, Willemse, de Klerk, Papier, van Zyl, Whiteley, Notshe, Vermeulen, Kolisi, Coetzee/van Staden/Louw, Mostert, Etzebeth, Snyman, PS, Malherbe/W Louw, Kitshoff, Nyakane, Beast, Qcoboka/Nche, Marx, Mbonambi, Akker.

          Of course JL du Preez, Lood de Jager, Thomas du Toit and Jesse Kriel will definitely be in the picture. It’s most certainly possible to hit that target but as always there will be deserving players who will miss out. If Rassie picks a similar squad to the above then Duane would most likely be picked as a blindside, PS du Toit as extra flank cover and Nyakane as a utility prop.

    • Barry Smith

      No question, loads of talent, just a question of how the cards fall come WC time. Injuries have a nasty habit of hitting when you can I’ll afford them.
      Also de Allende, Mpimpi, Ox Nche, Mvovo, Skosan…..

      • Vossie

        Maybe ad Fassi as well? the kid has serious pace

        • Greg Shark

          Fassi is showing promise but not properly cooked yet, still a bit raw… that space!

  • Wesley

    I have tried to stay away from this comments post today after reading the article, hoping we would get an opening comment without the “quota” thing hanging over, but yet, there it is… Barry with the breaking news…

    How about the possibility Rassie might want to build on a local based side and only go with overseas players that either have test experience or truly have something to give in positions lacking depth. Faf is certain, no point in discussing this. Now I know its not popular, but Cronje has much more test experience and Papier is a local based youngster that shows lots of promise, and so because of local based best performers, they get the back-up. Simple. No need to hope on Cobus “Reinhard” (Reinach).

    I still back Wilco for 3 above Malherbe, but Trevor still the smart money the way he ended off with the Bulls before injury. Coenie is also back so I’m seeing a lot in front happening. No need to make up the “numbers”. They are being produced themselves, and a for this “mix”, it gets evaluated over a period, not game by game. I would say those “certain” of their place is not based on what you might like to point out as, but based on their performance on the field, most likely preferred as locally based. How is this different to what NZ does excluding NZ eligible players because they based outside NZ? Is Hansen sure he picks the absolute best with great players like Piutau plying their trade in England? Kerr-Barlow looking like a sweet backup with Smith waning at the moment. Pretty subjective if you ask me.

    • Greg Shark

      “…but Cronje has much more test experience…” both Sharks scrummies made cronje look decidedly ordinary in last evening butchers picnic. What about Pumas’ Ungerer? I find myself hammering away on his drum but heas has ‘attributes’ worth considering…. very strong, long pass, tackles well, solid decision making, a big lad, 23 years old….. how does cronje stack up against that?

      • Herman Schroder?

        Are you feeling OK. Further up on this site you said ‘Rassie could do a lot worse by picking Cronje’ ?. This CC competition is a joke my friend about two levels below SR if truth be told. All it’s really good for is upping skill levels on attack. When some of these ‘fancied’ players have taken their Franchises to the playoffs in SR we may have a better idea of where they really are. According to these sites and the names mentioned one would swear there are about 300 Boks running around on any given weekend, lol. Cheers.

    • Barry Smith

      Racial selections are at the core of our selection processes, so why would you expect it not to come up?
      The sad news (or is it good) is that it will not only continue to come up, but will increasingly come under the spot light as international anti-lobby gains momentum!
      Our racial selection process are on borrowed time!

      • Wesley

        At the core? Seriously? I have asked the same question many times, still with no one owning up their opinion… Who are these players you speak of being selected because of their race, in your opinion? Let me clarify, i believe the selection based on racial profiles are abboherant and does not belong in professional sport, gov has reached too far sometimes in their “policy” (what regime has not done this?) , but truly i dont see this in practice to our national rugby team. Honestly

        • Barry Smith

          Yes, at the core. It is one of Erasmus’s three pillars: Transformation, win, depth….that’s pretty much core!
          It is subjective to compare player for player, but tell me sir, if you are indeed correct in saying that the players of colour are all deserving, then why do we need a quotation system at all, because then these players would be selected on merit anyway???
          As you say, it is not something that belongs in sport, so let’s stand together to get rid of it!

          • G spot

            Because if we never had quotas we would never have this wonderfully transformed team. We are funny creatures and our biases and prejudices are often unconscious. And then there are those who are blatantly prejudiced. So call quotas a kind of insurance to make sure we don’t succumb to our racial prejudices. And then just get on with and be bloody grateful that despite our attrocious and terribly unjust past, we still have the Springboks and the quota is only 50%, not 90%. Last thought: every time someone bleats about quotas we give the government reason to keep them…think about that!

  • Wesley

    Erasmus is not stupid. He needs to say this to keep his job and them off his back… And why even care to “get rid of it” spending time and money on a fruitless endevour. Just get on with it and I think thats what Erasmus is doing. Im sure he would love not to have these hangers on in sport not hounding him, but he faces them dead on and exerts his confidence. I would love the gov listening to us, but they wont. By the time they actually wake up and say we dont need it, it will have happened long time ago, people doing actual work on the ground has already begun to identify the great pool of black players SA can draw from and develop. Its already happening and actually to the detrement of no one. Some would say “but what about our beef afikaners leaving”. Not true. Look at the beef still plying their trade in SA regardless. And what about Moerat? Beef we got plenty of all colour… But i would say more dangerous to our cause is favoritism. The reason many greats from SA playing in the northern hemisphere has left. Example… We favored Steggman for Stander at the Bulls. Did it pay off? Didnt think so. All this debate is all for nothing, our demise is because of short term idiocy in structures bound to SA rugby like a tick present since the early “glory days”. We just got away with it then because of either our isolation in the 80s or the amature nature of the sport. Now its professional and some in SA cant cope with that. Rassie knows how, it may take long to dig us out that ditch, but i trust what the guy is doing, and gov can honestly just stick it…

    • Mike Stoop

      Really Wesley. You compare Moerat, who is not even a consistent starter in the Currie Cup with Lood de Jager, Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Mostert, RG Snyman, Ruan Botha, Stephan Lewies and another couple playing in Europe. He is not even at the standard of his Currie Cup team mate J.D. Schickerling. How do you justify picking even Marvin Orie over these guys. “Beef” is not how big they are. It is how big they play.

      Six months ago Nyakane could not even make the Bulls side. He has spent his Springbok life as a substitute tighthead/loosehead. Suddenly he is a dead cert choice at tighthead while Malherbe, Louw and Oosthuizen are available. And it has nothing to do with race? Nyakane is a fair loosehead prop (unfortunately, the spot is taken by two world class players), but as a tighthead he should not be considered as any higher than No.5. Even Ruan Dreyer is streets ahead of him as a tighthead. And then there is the small matter of the Sharks No 3 hooker constantly being called up to the Springbok side. Can you truthfully say the a white Chiliboy would have made the side? Explain why the Stormers Super Rugby tighthead reserve, Carlo Sadie, can’t make the WP Currie Cup side. Has he deteriorated that much, while not playing? And how does Caylib Oosthuizen still have a professional contract? WP finally got rid of Brok Harris and Patrick Cilliers and now they are stuck with him? They are rid of Proudfoot as well, but now we are ALL stuck with him.

      Stegman was a fetcher and Stander at the time, played eighth man. Even now he plays for Ireland as an eighth man and a No 7 flank (SA No 7, not NZ No 7). The guys that kept him out of the Bulls side, was Arno Botha and a certain Pierre Spies. Botha was, at the time, the better player of the two. Unfortunately, his career was blighted by injury. You obviously don’t understand the role of different props and loose forwards, or you only started following rugby very recently.

      Now list your beef of all colours. See if you can provide the depth that is required. Please do not consider anybody who has never even played Super Rugby.

      Are you serious about Cronje? Have you seen him at top speed? The whole Springbok pack, except maybe Malherbe, will beat him in a sprint. Papier has great talent, but he should be playing in the Currie Cup every Saturday and every Super Rugby match for his franchise in 2019. Tagging along with the Boks, without getting game time does not do his development any good. Of all the victims of quotas, he is probably being disadvantaged the most. The need to make up the numbers is stunting his development. Where are the rest of the “local” players that should be considered before Reinach? (Can’t believe I just said that). I never rated Reinach, but the rest….. At scrumhalf Papier is our only hope, but he should be playing provincial rugby at this time

      Sorry Wesley, there is nothing good to be said for quotas, even at age group level.

      • Wesley

        Mike, you missed the point of my comment. Never said quotas are good, clarified my standpoint. But from your comment i derive that you like to base your opinion on a player by the colour of his skin, based on your comments on Moerat, Orie and Nyakane. Dreyer is better than Malherbe, but thats my subjective opinion. Favoritism is the dangerous thing here, so no black player is keeping the better player out of any position. Favorite players are. But thats just my opinion. You and Sweet down here obviously trade in the “us vs them” rhetoric, and lable me as a “moron” if i dont conform to your ideals. We have moved on. Rassie has moved on, rather to stop blame-shifting and getting on with the work ahead if him. AC played the blame game, and see where that got him….

        • Wesley

          And on Stander. He was termed too small, able to play in all positions in the back row in competition to Botha, Steggman, Spies and Rossouw yes, although being a breakout talent in u20. Short term idiocy and favouritism by the Bulls get a free pass now? We cannot identify great talent and would not give youngsters their shot. Thats our problem.

          • Wesley

            Again Mike, missing the point. Never said Stander should have replaced either of Botha or Rossouw. Steggman was, in my opinion, overrated, and should not have gone as far as he did. Fetch he did not much and giving away penalties was his forte. Stander, even not operating on the pure fetcher role, should have been considered above him as part of the loose forward group. Do you believe the Bulls was treating an up and coming star Springbok U20 captain fairly by relegating him to mostly Vodacom Cup fixtures? He was part of the Currie Cup side as early as 2009, and had atleast 2 seasons together with Danie, so my timeline kind of links up well, thank you. Danie was on his way out, don’t you think the Bulls should have been more careful in their future selection to keep a young talent like him?

            Your condescending tone shows you cannot debate your opinion without some kind of jab. Do you talk to friends like this? Haha see what i did there? Anyway…

            And on Dreyer, I clarified, its my subjective opinion that Malherbe is not the answer, and I rate Dreyer as a better tighthead. Make of it what you will. The start of this comment thread was to put to bed the idea that “quota players” are chosen above everyone else to the detriment of better players, which you have just proven by your complete analysis of certain players if’s and don’ts is NOT the reason some players leave or go. You put your opinion and analysis forth as gospel, instead of placing it forward as your subjective opinion. Because thats what it is. Subjective.

          • Mike Stoop

            Stander was a SA u/20 captain in the eighth man position. Have you ever paid any attention to how really good fetchers approach the game. Stegmann was a fetcher. A fairly good one. You implied that Stegmann was preferred over Stander. By the time Stander arrived as a 20-year old eighth man, Stegmann had been in the Bulls Super rugby side for three seasons, as a fetcher, not an eighth man. Even now, Stander does not fetch. Do you not understand the difference. Stegmann was not preferred because of favouritism, he was the only available top class fetcher. Don’t just throw it out there when you don’t know what you are talking about. The preference for Botha may have been favouritism, but he is taller, was faster and provided an additional lineout option. Danie Rossouw was a veteran Springbok by 2010, when Stander arrived at the Bulls. Do you really believe Stander should just have replaced him? Rossouw left the Bulls in 2011 anyway. sort out your positions and timelines before you compare players. Rossouw was from a different era.

            I know you have this thing about Malherbe, but who would you pick? We don’t have many good tightheads. Apart from Malherbe, only Louw and Dreyer. The reason is simple. Our coaches expect tightheads to play like looseheads. That is why they are constantly trying to turn looseheads into tightheads. The amount of energy a tighthead has to expend to dominate, precludes him from being a full time ball carrier as well. You will also find that most of the ball playing tightheads are not dominant scrummagers. They are usually converted looseheads (Coenie, Thomas, Trevor and Vincent Koch).

            I have to apologise to Moerat. I kept an eye out for him this weekend and he plays big. He has the talent. I still think that Schickerling is better AT THIS TIME, but he does have two years on Moerat. Whatched Orie as well. Not impressed, again. I also saw the difference to the WP scrum, once Wilco Louw was subbed. That is what a good, dominant tighthead does for a scrum.

            On the favouritism: Your opinion is very subjective. We saw this year what a difference a switched on Willie le Roux does for a Springbok back line. Picking a player like him above a standout precocious talent like Gelant, or a steady, solid Super Rugby performer like Coetzee, is not favouritism. Picking Malherbe over whichever other tighthead you prefer is not favouritism either. Until Louw is physically up to 60 minutes, he is all we have (I expect that Louw will reach his peak in about three years – he is only 24). Malherbe concedes fewer penalties than any other tighthead we have available at this time and he holds his own in the scrum. Dreyer, the only other alternative, is not heavy enough and tends to over extend too often. Koch still doesn’t have a counter for a loosehead scrumming in at an angle. (That was his weakness before he left. It is still there. Saw the same problem when Saracens played Leicester last season).

  • Eduardo

    We still need one man.Frans Steyn at inside centre. He is probably one of the most fear centre.He is like a Wilhelm Alberts at 12.He is fearless on attack and defence.He has a good passing and kicking game.He can punnt over 60m plus penalties and who what about those long range drop goals of his.We gonna need someone like his caliber going to next year’s world cup.He is a big game match winner.

    • Matt

      Some folks really can’t let the past go it seems.

  • Barry Smith

    G-spot, what you have is racial baggage. You need to work towards getting rid of it and not expect the rest of the world to join you down there in that dark and sad spot.
    There are only 5 Springboks that have achieved more than 100 test caps of which two are player of colour – almost 50%. With respects sir, you cheapen their great achievement by suggesting that we need a quotation system!

  • Herman Schroder?

    Pencil in the 6th October 17h00 – Loftus. After that game I think everyone will have a clearer picture of where we really are. The stats from last Saturday’s test just to horrific to give me any sense of the Boks ‘awakening’. I’ve seen a swallow but is it Summer ? Cheers.

  • Faghrie

    All this talk of quotas is annoying. I wonder if Bryan Habana would still be considered a quota ? I have seen some terrible black players, I have also seen terrible white and coloured players. Trevor Nyakane might not be a good prop but he can never ever be worse than Brok Harris and Ryan Dreyer who was consistently the worst Springbok player last year averaging four penalties a game.

    • Wesley

      True Faghrie. All this talk of preference of players is subjective, but if your view is based on the colour of the players skin you should re-evaluate your outlook. Keep it on what the player is capable of on the field. Unworthy players included over the years are of every pigment… Jorrie Muller, Kaya Moletana and im guessing there will be a whole lot more i future. But it is all subjective…

  • Amien

    Yes you are right but players who don’t belong or are not suppose to be in the book team always seem to be coloured or black. Based on these threads. It’s quite nauseating.

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