Stop the merry-go-round!

Joshua Brown

Developing squad depth for the 2019 World Cup shouldn’t come at the cost of giving important combinations a chance to settle.

Rassie Erasmus stepped into the job with one year to go to the 2019 World Cup and, in the rush to establish a preferred matchday 23 before the trip to Japan, the Bok coach has tried to squeeze three seasons of squad development out of one.

Despite his six-year contract suggesting he may take the Springboks right through to 2023, SA Rugby made it known earlier this week that Erasmus’ legacy will be balanced against what the Springboks can produce at the 2019 World Cup.

Going into the Rugby Championship clash against the All Blacks in Wellington, the Springboks had won 47% of their Tests since the last World Cup, including inaugural losses against Ireland at home, Italy and Argentina away.

Nine of the 15 players to start against the All Blacks have lost more than they’ve won in a Springbok jersey, including some of Erasmus’ seemingly key personal such as Faf de Klerk (35%), Malcom Marx (38%), Steven Kitshoff (43%) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (49%).

Clearly the Springboks are in a habit of losing and something needs to be done before the damage becomes permanent.

Unfortunately, Erasmus’ habit of enforcing weekly, unforced changes to his starting line-up is doing more harm than good, especially as far as achieving the immediate goal of winning. The Bok coach has, on average, made five changes and positional switches to his starting side in each of the last seven matches. He’s tried six different front rows, fielded four loose-forward combinations, and four different centre pairings.

Clearly Erasmus’ preferred general, Handre Pollard has only twice started in consecutive Tests. Pieter-Steph du Toit has worn a number five, seven, 19 and 20 on his back while Siya Kolisi has appeared on both sides of the scrum. Jesse Kriel missed out on selection for the Test against Argentina in Durban, didn’t even tour with the squad to Mendoza, suddenly found himself back in the starting line-up by the time they deployed in Brisbane and has now been named on the wing.

On the bench we’ve had four different reserve hookers, three separate back-ups to Faf de Klerk, and short spells for the likes of Damian Willemse and Lionel Mapoe before both were dropped.

Players need to know that they can take risks and play without wondering if they’ll get the opportunity to do so next week. Similarly, Erasmus should be afforded the breathing space to test his combinations over an extended period of time in order to focus on Tests we can win, rather than fast-tracking that process for a World Cup we simply can’t.

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Follow Joshua: @BalcolmBrown

- Joshua Brown

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    Some good point Joshua.
    It is a pitty that there is not away of recording emotional angst, because if there were, it would be a worthwhile exercise to run the tape back to November 2017. Personally, I recall fits of deep anxiety, dissapointment and outright anger, such were the depths of despair that our Rugby had reached under Coetzee’s tenure!
    We are a long way up the ladder from that now, even though we are still being subjected to some dissapointment. The series win over England shows that we can still do it and it was pleasing to see that, in Erasmus, we had someone with enough strategic nous to match Jones.
    You have suggested a more consistent selection process and there is certainly merit in following that route. It will be interesting over the next few weeks to plot the progress of the Pumas compared to South Africa. Argentina had a very poor start to their season with losses to Wales and Scotland. Their appointment of Mario Ledesma has turned things around for them and they are showing good progress with a more consistent selection process than ours! At the end of the four Nations we’ll have a better idea of who has the better strategy!

  • Wesley

    Cant wait for the next article hitting this website after todays miracle… WELL DONE BOKKE!!!

  • Herman Schroder?

    I’ll take any win over NZ and even more so when it was over there so kudos to the Boks and coaching staff. I’m especially looking forward to THE BREAKDOWN from NZ on Tuesday night on Dstv. I’m so tired of SA rugby hardly getting a mention over there and when they do it’s normally dismissive.

    But having said that and appreciative of the win the stats are just too alarming to give us any comfort. If BB had slotted those two conversions that hit the posts would we not be looking for ‘culprits’ now ?? Every single mistake would have been magnified and the coach hauled over the coals mercilessly. Now they are all heroes.

    Sure winning in NZ is the ultimate but we need to be realistic here. Those stats can win you nearly all your games especially if you are the AB’s so if they repeat them at Loftus in a few weeks will we get out of jail again ? I very much doubt it.

    For me the most gratifying aspect was the 5 tries scored. The AB’s scored six and butchered one or two more but we kept ourselves in the game with tries, 5 of them. I even saw a bit of Swys out there today. Penalties wouldn’t have done it. We must improve markedly before then or the euphoria created by this win will disappear very quickly. They did show mental strength today but does the coach and the team also have the nous and vision to do it again and much much better ? The balls in your court Rassie.

    • Chris Mouton

      It required quite a massive effort from the Boks to beat the All Blacks. It just shows you what pressure can do to even the best team. Despite that the All Blacks still scored 6 tries, even if the reffing was a bit suspect. It really bothers me that the Boks had so little territory and possession. It also bothers me that Faf has played full games the past 3 games. We have no real backup for him, which is alarming! It seems as if Rassie has now a better idea about his starting team. I’m glad Whiteley and Jantjies had good outings! He should please drop Kriel. We also need a better inside centre. One that can actually pass the ball!

      Despite all of the shortcomings, I believe this win over NZ, as fortunate as it may be, will improve the self-belief our boys so badly needs. Now they need to back that up by playing every single game with the same amount of commitment and determination. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done and the All Blacks will come back at us hard. Luckily they play against us after they played Argentina in Salta, which should be a cracker. At least there’s now a glimmer of hope for the Springboks.

    • Dean

      I’d counter any New Zealander about those kicks saying the ref missed a knock on in the build up to one of their tries. Also, a 5m scrum we clearly won in our half yet the ref penalised us. Even the NZ commentator’s went on to say it was harsh. They scored soon after that. Lastly, I think Willie’s yellow was marginal because when he caught Ioane, the ball was out of the ruck and in his hands. Also, it was first offense and there was no warning before that for the team. The warning came after that about 5 min later when the ref spoke to Whiteley. On the basis of that I say we deserved the win.

    • SweetAz

      Hey Herman,—-What the hell happened at Ellispark, LOL…..The SIESTEMS of those Cubs let them down badly hey?? 9 TRY’S, what we would have called an affirmative pak slae in the old days.

      • Herman Schroder?

        The Lions only start playing real rugby at the playoff stages. They were just lulling Province into a false sense of security, lol. Even in SR they’ve never lost a playoff game.The fat lady ain’t sung yet. Cheers.

        • Albert

          Hahaha. Can’t congratulate a team when the Lions were destroyed at home nogals? Tut tut tut.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Building blocks for next year Albert. The Lions are always ahead of the pack. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Whitely actually played well last night, the only bok player that looked out of place was Flo and when Die Ellendig came off the backline looked better as well.

      • Redge

        Sweet or dumbAz? Keep your personal ego outa this. The Die Ellendig joke getting a bit boring. You do realize there is no medication for stupidity hey? So unfortunately MATE you’re stuffed

      • Herman Schroder?

        Quite a few people are saying that Jantjies at 10 and Pollard at 12 could be the answer. How did you like the Lions tries ? Jantjies To Whitely to Dyantyi and wallah. Marx to Willie to Dyantyi and wallah. Marx streamroller try. Yeah we played our part. Cheers.

        • Redge

          Shame,small world you living in?

          • Albert

            Hahaha. Herman talking about objectivity? Slap me around and call me Susan!

            Whitely really came into the game when Kolisi went off and he was handed the captaincy. I think clearly he plays better as the captain. As for Elton, nice to see him not messing up for a change. He and Pollard compliment each other so well. Was also interesting to see the game played more off 10 than 9 this week.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Not if you had to put up with all the unfair criticism heaped on these players since June. Totally out of proportion to what really happens. Lions envy is alive and well on these forums and people need reminding of their fickleness and lack of objectivity. So if the shoe fits wear it pal. Cheers.

  • SweetAz

    WELL DONE BOKKE,—As a supporter the effort and desire to win is all I expect. I am never upset when my team loses, only when they don’t go down fighting for every scrap. So, I am happy to eat my words and give credit where its due, something changed in the team dynamic between last week and this week, it was plain to see especially after the match when they came together for a prayer that this TEAM has finally bonded. For the first time, they actually looked like a TEAM.
    Let’s give them our support and stop the negativity around Rassie and Provincialism, these guys deserve it and without the weight of us dragging them down they may even rise to much greater heights.

    • Barry Smith

      Epic!! Isn’t it great to have some positive news! Many with hangovers here today and I expect the Rand will strengthen on Monday!!
      A little on the quiet side in New Zealand today I would think! Loving the moment!

      • Maxwell

        This win felt the same as 438 cricket game.

    • Herman Schroder?

      I can see the prayer thing from Swys’s influence. It was a big part of the Lions team culture. WW’s captaincy in the latter stages of the game also apparent. However as my post above says the AB’s will never lose to the Boks if those stats are repeated at Loftus. I’ve seen a swallow but is it summer ? Cheers.

      • Dean

        The game has not changed. The team that takes their chances, makes better decisions and copes with the pressure better will most likely win. The best defense and an effective attack will win. It’s no coincidence that the teams with the best defense over the last 2 seasons have won Super rugby. Have a look at the stats for the whole comp. England whitewashed Australia in Australia with less possession, less territory, less carries and made more tackles over 3 games. 2011 WC final won on penalties. 2007 and 1995 the same. Drop goals and penalties clinched the semi’s in 1999 and 2015 against the Boks. British Lions drew in Nz based on defense, set piece and kicking from 9. That’s no secret. Ireland play structured, low risk rugby and have two tactical kicking masters at 9 and 10.

        • Herman Schroder?

          And here I thought dinosaurs were extinct.You live in the past Dean. The same teams that won SR and RC scored the most tries as well so your outdated ‘kicking wins matches’ is a fallacy. The game changed after 2009 and unbelievably some Franchises here are still playing that way in 2018. Fair enough WC’s are tighter affairs but you still won’t win it on kicks alone. Cheers.

      • SweetAz

        The boks have lost plenty of times with similar stats, —-perhaps we have it all wrong and you actually need to GIVE the opposition the ball, then pressurize them and strike from turnover ball. The AB’s lost all the stats against Argentina, yet they won??? Something to think about.

  • Nick

    Jeez hermie. We just beat nz in nz. Try and find it in yourself to enjoy the moment.

    Brilliant boks. Absolutely brilliant. The pure bok guts they demonstrated was a joy to behold.

    Well done boks, each and every one of them.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Read my first article on this site again and tell me where I didn’t give them kudos for winning ?? Brain before keyboard old chap. I still stand by my point about the stats though. Cheers.

  • Maxwell

    Well done Boys. Finally the players took the responsiblity. Only they can decide the outcome of a match. Boys its paybacktime from here. Go get our reputation back. Pieter Steff du Toit is my man of the match just because he shown what the win meant. Go Bokke. I’m still partying. WWWOOOOWWW.

  • Dean

    It’s a massive achievement and congrats to the Bokke, you made us proud. Wow what a difference a week makes. Last week I was pissed after that mediocre display. Still, we need to find out who our best center pairing is. We need a fetcher. Those last 15 mins we were under pressure, we needed somebody to slow down or steal the ball. I’d be interested to see Marcell Coetzee’s form for Ulster this season. I thought Jesse Kriel played really well. Perhaps him and Serfontein could make a good pair. Am looks out of his depth at this stage. Nkosi will strengthen the team again and Duane too when he’s back. Perhaps unleash the Angry Warthog and the Tank on them for the return leg.

    • Barry Smith

      After such a titanic effort, it seems unreasonable to be looking for fault, but found your views on AM and Jesse Kriel interesting, because I had it the opposite to that. The game was essentially won on defence and looking at those stats – AM made 6 tackles missed none, whilst Kriel made 10 missed 5, one of which was the out of chanel rush on Barret, which resulted in 7 points against us

      • Dean

        Not looking for fault, looking for improvements in certain areas. Rassie pointed it out already after the game. Marcell just scored a try and won man of the match in his second game back after a long layoff. Our rush defense is what kept us in the game for so long. Yes, at times it wasn’t executed perfectly. All of the back line players made errors on defense, as they have the whole season. It’s more a case of players who need to get used to the system put in place by Nienaber. IMO Kriel offers more on attack than Am. He’s got far more pace and a good side step. His running lines were really good in that game. I think Serfontein and Kriel would make a great pair because they have played together before. Secondly, they compliment each other. Serfontein is a very good defender, he competes at the breakdown and has a grubber kick. Kriel could benefit from having him on his inside. If I were to play Am, I would play the experienced Frans Steyn on his inside. I’m not saying Am shouldn’t be part of the wider squad. He needs to gain more experience at this level. Those would be my 4 centers. What would yours be? Your thoughts on the combinations too?

        • Herman Schroder?

          I prefer Serfontein to Kriel but not both together. Have another look at Kriel he didn’t have a good day at all on Saturday. IMO they both lack vision and subtle skills especially if an expansive game plan is adopted. A No 12 in particular needs rugby nous to assist the No. 10 and distribute intelligently and Pollard ( on Saturdays display ) would appear more suited with Serfontein, Am, Mapoe on the outside perhaps. Cheers.

  • Wesley

    Its a 2007 World Cup mantra we have to aspire to. Defence wins games. Look at Heynekes full out attack approach to the detrement of his winning record especially against the ABs. Yes its great entertainment to see running rugby but you have to shore up defence properly if you want to do this. You have to have players flair to achieve that, and with Dyantyi, Kolby, Mapimpi and the like you can score tries with forwards doing hard work on press defences and back tackles. We saw this yesterday. If it would work against the Argies is debatable as they are very good at penetrating pressing line speeds. We need to adapt to what opponent you are playing. But a strong defence is what you need first and foremost.

    • Herman Schroder?

      I take your point but you cannot rely on defence to win you games week in and week out. The difference on Saturday was that we scored five tries, granted two were gifted to us. It’s a combination of both so reverting to the conservative defence based model will only get you so far. A good defence is a given in any game but these days it’s what you do with ball in hand that’s makes the difference. I repeat what I said earlier, if the AB’s repeat those stats at Loftus in three weeks time we”ll be taken to the cleaners. Cheers.

  • Evan Snyman

    I think that the perfect counter to your argument is Erasmus’ persistence with Dyantyi, despite his naivety on the wing costing us several tries, including in the recent triumph against the All Blacks.

    I have always rated Erasmus for his innovative thinking and the manner in which he is now using Dyantyi on defence is very interesting, accommodating his natural inclination to rush up as part of a line speed tactic, while covering the wing with more disciplined players. I am not sure if this is a long-term alternative, but it worked on Saturday, despite being the main cause of the All Blacks’ two early tries.

    Also, a coach’s role is not only during the 80 minutes that are televised, and we have little or no idea what conversations are happening behind the scenes. Last week, articles were posted that said that Pollard was always aware of the fact that Jantjies would play in Brisbane, and so was part of the conversation in this regard. I have no problem with players being in and out of match-day 23s as long as their places in the squad is secure, that they are made aware of what they need to do to progress and that they are included in the coach’s thinking.

    To this end I feel that Erasmus has also quite judiciously allowed some players to return to their provinces to play in the Currie Cup (the demands on the Europe-based players being beyond his control). Each player is different – while some love the camaraderie of simply being part of the squad and will benefit from going on tour, others get splinters while sitting on the bench. It speaks volumes for Erasmus’ coaching nous that he clearly does not have a one-plan-fits-all approach. Man management was always one of the subtler sides of coaching.

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