Will “simple” Boks surprise Eddie?

Dan Retief

As you read this, the Springboks are already in damp and chilly London, ensconced in the Royal Garden Hotel in central Kensington.

From their rooms they will have “panoramic views of Kensington Palace and Gardens, Hyde Park and be only minutes away from the capital’s most popular tourist attractions.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it? A luxury hotel in the heart of one of the world’s great cities with the opulent shop windows dazzlingly dressed for Christmas; nice weatherproof kit to keep you warm as the northern winter sends temperatures plummeting.

However, it is everything but. Most of the team left before the Currie Cup Final and those who sweated it out at Newlands, including “new caps” JD Schickerling, Sergeal Petersen and Ruhan Nel, rushed to the airport for the overnight flight to England.

Such is the intensity of modern rugby that Siya Kolisi and his men will have hardly any time to acclimatise before they take on England at Twickenham on Saturday followed in rapid succession by criss-crossing trips to play France, Scotland and Wales.

From the sauna-like conditions at Newlands and the heatwave in Stellenbosch, where the larger training group prepared, to near-zero temperatures requires a massive adaptation but more so because Rassie Erasmus will have to nurse those who went all the way to the Currie Cup Final.

Like the northern hemisphere players who come here in June, South African players are battered and fatigued by the time the end-of-year tour comes round.

This was a point tellingly made by WP coach John Dobson while discussing his team’s lineout woes in the Final. “Bongi (Mbonambi) could have pushed on, but he was pretty stuffed at half-time.”

Not only does that give an idea of the juggling Erasmus will have to do to have as sharp an edge as possible in the Test match 23s, but also focuses attention on the unfathomable absence of Armand “Akker” van der Merwe – the man of the match in the Final and arguably the Currie Cup player of the season.

To my mind, it says that the Springbok team was, in fact, picked before the Final and that Erasmus had already committed to having Schalk Brits as his third-choice hooker.

As with most Springbok teams, there were others who were unlucky. Fortunately for the coach, he is far away from the flak and able to get down to the business of beating England and the others, and creating the momentum needed to set the Boks up for 2019.

Eddie Jones has already made a little gibe about the Springboks being “pretty simple to beat” and, even though his words were taken out of context, the Currie Cup Final provided some substance to what he was driving at.

Jones has studied the Springboks for years and has a pretty good idea of how to beat us. In the June Tests his team twice built big leads only to be overtaken by the Boks, but at Newlands in the final Test they won comfortably.

As far back as the World Cup in France in 2007, Jones – who, ironically, was with the Boks as Jake White’s assistant because Erasmus had cried off – told me that one of the things he had worked on to eliminate was South Africa’s predictability.

And he would have allowed himself one of his smirky smiles when he watched the tape of the Newlands final as Natal stuck to their game plan of challenging every lineout ball, holding their own in the scrum, rush defence and kicks in behind.

Western Province failed to adapt – constantly sending the ball to one-off forward runners, taking the ball standing, and devoid of ploys to get the Sharks “out of their faces.”

“Ah,” Jones would have thought, “they’re still stuck in the rut” – hence his view that “you’ve got to take them on up front and then when you get opportunities to score points you’ve got to score them. They play the traditional Springbok game up front and then move the ball wide when they need to.”

It’s an old Australian ploy to try to taunt a side into playing an expansive game to which they’re unaccustomed, but while Erasmus is too shrewd to take the bait one also hopes to see more variation from the Springboks.

Hopefully they’ve been working on tactics to disguise the receiver of the ball, to subtly shift the thrust of an attack, to allow Handré Pollard to run the game rather than having forwards in his way and to kick the ball (chips over the top, into the corners, pressure relieving touch-finders) when necessary.

Erasmus will be without his starter motor, Faf de Klerk, but will still be able to select a brute pack and a backline with enormous potential.  Jones might well be surprised at how the Boks’ defence has come on.

And, oh yes, not being that au fait with SARU machinations these days, who’s in and who’s out, if I were sitting in the foyer of the Boks’ upscale hotel I’d be looking out for a tall, fair-haired hulk walking through the door – Johan Ackermann, now of Gloucester, who no doubt has quite a bit he can pass on to the Boks.

I wonder whether he’s been invited for a cuppa?

- Dan Retief

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  • Greg Shark

    Dan, …”….fair-haired hulk walking through the door – Johan Ackermann, now of Gloucester….” ….. may well be skulking the corridors for reasons other than altruistic support of the Boks….. he may be looking find new signings for Gloucester…..!

    • William Botha

      Now there’s a man who knows his this sh*tuff goes down!

  • boyo

    The thing is knowing what the boks will do and stopping it are two different things.

    We saw it on Saturday. WP knew exactly what they needed to do to beat the sharks but they could match the sharks forwards and it was game over.

    The bok pack is difficult to dominate and if they get on the front foot that’s all she wrote.

  • Augusto

    England has the bigger forwards in world rugby, SA has the fitter. This is going to be massive

  • John Comyn

    I think Rassie will take on any advice he can get from Ackerman. Also bear in mind Swys is there & he is likely to catch-up with Ackers. A real concern for Rassie, I guess, has been scrumhalf with Faf out for the England game but I have to say Louis Schreuder was outstanding on Saturday. He was composed, when at times, his scrum was under pressure, but more importantly, was out of hand kicking deadly. The kick chase worked very well for the Sharks. I have watched Louis many times at Newlandds when he played for WP and he was either very bad or very good but mostly bad. He has matured and is putting in consistent performances week in a week out.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Where was he in SR ? The ‘Curry Cup’ is no indicator of test quality players except to Rassie of course. LS is an average ‘dime a dozen’ scrummie imo and should be way down the pecking order. The Cheetah’s scrummie Venter would be a better bet. Cheers.

  • Barry

    Hopefully Akkers is not already helping his buddy Mitch!

  • Barry

    Despite Erasmus’s fine attention to detail, there are some real concerns for the first test.

    I assume Louis Schreuder will start, because of the experience he has and I am pleased that he got the nod, but it does seem high risk going in with a first cap and starting against England. Almost a little unfair on the player!

    We keep getting reports that Damien Willemse will start at 15! Surely not?? He has had three very shakey tests, all off the bench and has conceded two tries in the process! John Dobson preferred Leyds or Marais at 15 and Stander at 10 in preference to Willem! So how is it that he is in the squad let alone starting for South Africa?

    • SweetAz

      You really really dont know??????

    • AK

      Agreed on the last point! Wrong of me to say as a WP supporter, but they started playing crap since the boks joined them.

  • Ringo

    If people think the Boks play a simple game, then they aren’t looking closely enough.

    Our defense is especially clever. Blitz runners to pressure scurmhalves and 10s. Tackles that look like they will be two-man but end up being fake-outs to encourage pop passes to players already marked. Lying longitudinally after the tackle to obstruct cleaners. Using a close press-up line to force wide long passes to wingers under pressure from fast loosies like Whiteley or Notshe. There’s so much thought that goes into this team of “brutes” that people tend to miss.

    I’m sure Eddie has seen it too, though.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Rassie has clearly lost the plot and his ‘meticulous planning’ is coming unstuck imo. His indecent haste to get on the plane and hold back on the squad announcement until after lift off is an indication of just how naive his planning has been. Was it delayed to avoid the outcry from the public regarding his almost obscene Stormers ( past and present ) contingent in the squad, plus a healthy Bulls batch and leaving arguably the best two Franchises with a smattering of representation ?

    His ‘transformation’ credentials lie in tatters with a mere 36% players of ‘colour’ represented in his squad. Even then to help his cause he had to call on two overseas ‘oldies’, Kolbe and Aplon, to boost his numbers. Only three more tests next year for the the 50% minimum WC ‘colour’ coded squad to reveal itself and the mighty ‘juggler’ is going to have his work cut out keeping all the balls in the air. He wants to fool us with his stated claim of picking a huge number of ‘transformers’ already but if one translates that to actual playing time then he is fooling no one, least of all the paying public or Cosatu and Co..

    Why did the squad leave so late anyway. If Rassie had withdrawn his intended squad from this watered down CC comp and left earlier to settle the squad down before the England test.it would have made more sense. No doubt in the eyes of SARU the weak CC had to be given some credibility considering the amount of money spent on promoting it. Yet in perfect weather a crowd of only 27000 pitched.up to witness what can only be described as a low grade excuse for a rugby match. It was painful to watch and quite frankly an embarrassment for SA rugby on the world stage. The Mitre 10 final in NZ with 9 tries in appalling weather conditions the perfect comparison to prove just how little we have moved forward.

    Yes Rassie four tests lie ahead and you and your team will be sorely tested. One assumes in the first game England will have 15 players available of course but all four will lie in wait to down the ‘giant killers’. Should you fail you will no doubt still leave there unscathed due to your teflon coated contract. But how will you justify poor results when, unlike your predecessors, everything you wanted has been handed to you on a plate ?

    I know I’m jumping the gun here but I believe this is not a well prepared tour for various reasons. I prefer to set up my stall before the event by predicting three possibly even four tour losses which would be disastrous for SA rugby a year out from the WC especially when it leaves only three further tests next year for Rassie to get it right. Meticulous planning ? I have my doubts. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Apparently my last reply to your posting was offensive to someone so it got removed. Its kinda strange how you get to gasbag and write screeds of mostly nonsense on these forums,–do you sponsor them or are they related to you?

    • Sue

      Wow; aren’t you a ray of sunshine..

    • Mark

      100% well said. It is very easy to be the master of doom and gloom and then when the Boks win, I bet Dan will be in there cheering, and if we lose he gets to say well I told you so. What a doos.

    • Albert

      And to set out my stall, I say 3 wins and a loss to England. With John Mitchell I believe England will now have an extra string to the bow. As for France, Scotland and Wales, I will go for a Bok win to finally break the losing habit against them.

    • Albert

      It sure sounds like you are blaming Rassie for the 50% player of colour ruling. It is a government directive and Rassie is trying his best to meet that while creating a winning team. After everything has been said, Rassie’s Boks defeated New Zealand, the best team in the world, in their own back garden. He then should have beaten them at home if not for the subs letting him down. And them all and sundry castigated the man due to him using his subs. Heaven forbid.

      Why is it that a coach who is actually trying to bring our rugby out of the darkness is under such scrutiny yet we gave AC so much time to finally be put to pasture? Neigh, me thinks the negativity in SA has reached a new crescendo. The Boks have shown signs of major growth, yet inconsistency. I am looking forward to donning several layers and a scarf at Twickenham while the Boks show the poms a thing or two.


      • Herman Schroder?

        Albert I’m late back responding here but wish to make a few points. Rassie took the job fully aware of the issues involved and therefore is answerable if it ( transformation ) goes belly up. Many top coaches turned down the job because of it. He can’t have it both ways.

        By the way I was way tougher on HM and AC and they didn’t have free rein to pick from 300 plus players playing overseas to boost their test sides. It’s a pity England are so weakened for today’s match so the Boks will have no excuses should they slip up.. Enjoy the game. Cheers.

      • Chris Mouton

        Amen Albert! Herman thinking 3 out of 4 matches will be losses? Come now! In my opinion the Springboks have the opportunity to make it 4 out of 4. Yes, we don’t have Willie or Faf for the English test, but I believe we have enough firepower to beat the English. I’m looking forward!

        • Herman Schroder?

          See my response to Albert. Cheers.

  • Barry

    We all try and keep it positive, because frankly there has been much improvement, but before I comment on the likely results against England, I would first like to see the selection. If we have Willesden at 15 and Papier at 9, we’re in for a long day!

  • Mark

    So Dan – what was your prediction before the SA All Black game in NZ in the rugby championship?
    Criticism for the sake of it, unless constructive, is not what we want in our rugby scribes – yet is is all we seem to get….rather give us some insight over stating what we all all ready can figure out ourselves please.

  • Mark

    Dan perhaps then seeing that you know the results – should come home and not follow the tour? Tonsil.

  • Nick

    Just last year we went up north and got dealt with by almost everybody. England hardly needed to change gears to put us away. Since then the upward curve for the boks has b8een real. This is now a different team all thanks to rassie. Dan rightly points out that as always it is not going to be easy for the usual reasons.

    While you would think bok fans everywhere are feeling positive and looking forward to what will be a massive test, some of us are actually expressing outrage about everything the coach does.

    Even the most knowledgeable coaches will differ and pick different players from the same pool of players for the same game. Rassie has raised the bar in terms of selection and preparation of players and teams in a unique rugby environment which is sa. He knows far more about his players and what to expect than any of us on this site.

    He deserves our support, or at least for the cynical among us to reserve judgement . If you’re going to whine , ‘soos n ou vrou met n nat broek’, do it after the game if you have reason to.Obviously our boks are in good hands. It’s important to realise how tough these games are and to remember where we were just last year.

    Sorry, just don’t empathise with the foaming at the mouth outrage of some. I’m actually looking forward to the game and already taking care of the refreshments I’ll be needing for Saturday afternoon.

    • Herman Schroder?

      If you wait till after the game to criticize the result then people will say you are being wise after the event. Therefore I set up my stall early. However having now seen the weak England team chosen if the Boks don’t put them away it will be an even bigger disaster. Rassie’s had ten tests now so his honeymoon is over. Merely being competitive is hardly a gigantic step forward the bar was set terribly low by his predecessors. Cheers.

  • Nick

    Let’s see what team rassie picks. Surely if he intends to play brits it will be in this game. Vermeulen in the team and overseas based players unavailable will result in obvious changes the boks knew about ages ago.
    Expect some howling at the moon from some when the team is released.

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