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1199 Topic: Finding the Right Balance
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Status: Bok regular
Posts: 1098
Finding the Right Balance
June 08, 2012, 02:11:09

Going through Australia's loss to Scotland reminded me all to well of their 2009 defeat to the Scots, and therefore their shortcomings over the past decade. I lamented their inability to produce hard running backs of the ilk of the Golden Generation. The likes of Tim Horan, Daniel Herbert, Joe Roff, Chris Latham, Mortlock, Matt Burke, Steve Larkham... all great players from a technical standpoint with lots of genuine flair. They all, however, were highly adept at taken the ball into contact as well as exploiting well crafted space and make good ground before offloading. It was that ability to punch into defences and swarm through it much like the Roman Wedge formation. It was the perfect foil for their expansive game.

South Africa though has gone the opposite direction. We like to play a more direct game with big, bulky players. Very much in line with England's thinking. This was all well and good, until defences started tightening in 1999. We failed to evolve with the game, and most of this is the result of defiant pride and arrogance. The lesson was learnt at Super level, and learnt the hard way after many years of utter humiliation. Yet there still lingers this infatuation with size. The Boks have floundered over the past four years because of a defiant refusal to make better use of it's resources. As Moz pointed out, we have that small-strong man amongst our ranks. Players that can match the speed and skill of any Australian or Polynesian, but still able to provide a physical presence. This is where we need to combine those elusive qualities with our heavy artillery, to make for a more rounded game. The place to start is at centre, seeing as this is the heart of your attacking power. A Frans/de Jongh combination would perfectly suit the modern game. Why does Jean make it ahead of a far better player and, more importantly, specialist outside centre? A battering ram at 13 with a very direct 12? We have seen that this just doesn't work at all. Take the Nonu/Smith combination. Nonu does the hard yards which opens things up for the All Blacks. Smith then pulls the strings. de Jongh in fact is a far more accomplished defender anyway, far better than the Smith who fluffed all his tackles in a World Cup final! More so than any other country we have an extraordinary blend of talend, we can quite literally put together any team to play any kind of game. Meyer needs to look for those players that can add the elusive quality that has been missing over the past four years. Like it or not, the modern game demands speed, mobility and skills.
 


clevermike

Status: Hall Of Fame
Posts: 12589
RE: Finding the Right Balance
June 08, 2012, 04:11:03

Der Advocate

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.  


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Status: Bok regular
Posts: 1098
RE: Finding the Right Balance
June 08, 2012, 04:35:45

de Jongh suffers because the inside backs are not doing their job. Whatever he does do, he does with no momentum and very little support. With Joe Pietersen and Habana around him, this should not be happening. The 10-12 axis is not doing it's job. Most of what Grant does is candyfloss rugby, and then you have Jean stifling play even further. It's all a process. A lot is spoken of attacking space, well, space is something that you have to create! And this is where your 12 in particular becomes absolutely essential. Frans provides the grunt and distribution, along with elusiveness of his own and this is the kind of player that can allow de Jongh to come into his own. A few simple plays is all one needs once the right personnel is present, then it comes down to decision making. Frans, Habana, Morne, Du Preez, Hougaard, de Jongh, JP Pietersen, Joe Pietersen... they are all good decision makers.

I would however like to point out that under Jake 2004 was a very attack minded season. We received much attention for our Blitz defence, but our attack was lethal. It was 2005 that was more defence minded. 2006 was more of a hybrid and the balance just wasn't there with all the disruptions of those injuries. 2007 the team settled, and with Frans at 12, the Boks played a very well rounded game. Only the 1999 Aussies and the 2007 Boks have won a WC with a perfectly rouned game. It was something in the region of 38 tries in 8 tests! Nothing to be shirked at.

It was 2009 where de Villiers went the same route as Rudolph Straeuli; big forwards, 10 man game, but with the best fetcher in the world and a deadly goal kicker. Those were all what separated the two. He regressed even further in 2010 and 2011. The personnel? Well, the squad should have been developed, yet those players were still elite and good enough to win the tournament. It was a case of too little too late as Nienaber reworked our entire defensive patterns.
 


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