RE: Finding the Right Balance
June 08, 2012, 04:11:03
Very good comments - I could not put it more accurately. The problem is that we have - as you so rightly said gone a different route from the other southern hemiphere countries. Effectively that SA route allows for a 10 men game plan - the back line players effectively being decorative and only for defence. This has worked for a short while and let to our conquest of the 2007 WC.
However, we then did what all the winners of the WC since 1987 has done - we tried despeartely to stick to the 2007 squad - even though some of the players - John Smit and Victor Mattfield included - were way past their "sell-by" date. As a result there was no growth in performances and effectively this had two results, namely -
* The competing countries adopted some of the elements of South Africa; but
* The situation was that the competing countries allow for variation of use - which we did not.
Under Pieter De Villiers the game became so type-cast and predictable that opposing countries could pre-determine defensive and attacking strategy even before the start of games - since they knew exactly what would happen. That is the reason for the atrocious record in the Tri-Nations since 2009.
Now back to the issue of the no 13 center. I have no problem with the issue of defence - but serious reservations about the ability of De Jong to attack. I have seen at least 10 cases in the past five Super 15 games where De Jong tried to run at a single opponent and got tackled back and he lost the ball in a turnover or through a penalty. The situation is that to my mind the lack of try-scoring by the Stormers can be attributed to poor functioning of De Jong in particular. He mnakes no impression on attack.
I also think that De Villiers should be replaced within the next 12 to 18 months as a center, but would rather go for younger, faster and more skillful players like Taute, Jordaan or even Engelbrecht. However, i do agree with you that it is difficult to hit holes into present defnsive strategies and in that the full back plays a vital role. It is therefore essential that the full back should be partoicularly skillful as an attacker and even to initiate attacks in open play. The best example of that in the present rugby situation is Joe Pietersen.
However, the ultimate solution remains the need to vary playing techniques and not be totally predictable. There is a place for a kicking game - and for passing back to the forwards - but this should be off-set by another technique as well, namely full utilization of the back line for attacking purposes. Unfortunately I cannot remember when last we used attacking back line play as a tchnique to win games. We have effectively lost that on international level and that is a pity. By the way lack of practice of attacking rugby has resulted in many knock ons and inability to pass balls accurately and even in the rare occassions players tried to run the ball. handling errors was the norm rather than the exception.
We should develop the game further and that is the challenge Meyer have to deal with as a preparation for the enxt WC. I hope he gets it right sooner rather than later.