A New Gameplan?
September 07, 2012, 19:07:40
A new playing style? Plan A, B, C and D? Here is the problem. Every team does the same things that the other does. The difference is emphasis. Where you place your emphasis is where your strengths will be. In order for the Boks to be more complete, they need to re-establish those old strengths with a new group of players up front and learn to be more effective when they use the ball. The gameplan does not change, there is no revolutionary plan B. It doesn't exist. That's just the nature of the game.
This brings me onto the issue of creativity. There is no room for creativity in rugby. Rugby is akin to chess in every way, hence great puzzle-solving abilities are required. That's how you unlock defences. Creativity is emotional expression, how does that transfer over to rugby in any constructive way? It doesn't. The Boks are a very emotional side, we lack nothing on that front, but we lack the thought processes involved which are essential in playing a higher level attacking game. Players such as Patrick Lambie, Conrad Jantjies, to name but two, have fallen into this 'creativity' nonsense, and watch as their decision making skills have regressed to the point of complete and utter uselessness. Then there is Goosen, a very bright prospect. However, he is not quite the complete player that most would have you believe. He is a very good decision maker, but it is the entire dynamic of the Cheetah backline that is the difference. Not only that, the Cheetah's are the first South African side - be that domestic or international - to use their forwards as much as the New Zealanders do, not only as heavy-traffic ball carriers, but as links in structured AND unstructured backlie moves. Key ingredients here that South Africans have not picked up on because of this obsession with 'creativity' and the over-emphasis on flyhalf play above all other components. Look up on past Tri-Nations campaigns and see how much more New Zealand use their forwards; here's last years stats:
Passes by forwards/backs
So, the big obstacles for Meyer. The work at the breakdown is still a big issue, though for differing reasons than under Peter. He wants his big ball carries in the back row with many lineout options, yet the whole fifteen man effort in protecting the ball is non-existant. I noticed that when Jean and out back-three took the ball wide, the ball was very easily lost, and this left us quite vulnerable when transitioning into defence. Then there was accuracy from phase-to-phase from our forwards. Quite often Hougaard was left completely unprotected or the ball was simply stolen. I don't see anything wrong with what Meyer wants to do, it is all very sound, but the players are not executing these things at all well. Were Brussow there it would still be a very big issue. So what can we conclude? The next-gen players are inferior to the old guard. Kruger, Bekker, Etzebeth, Flip... not a patch on Matfield, Bakkies and Roussouw. Strauss does look a good bet at hooker, but lacks Smit's presence and big game productivity. Losing Steenkamp this year was not helpful either. We just have to accept the fact that this is a weaker team than we are accustomed to. When put into context, this team has actually done very well to get the results it has achieved thus far. We would have lost most of the those games under Peter, Viljoen and Straeuli. The gameplan is not the problem, Meyer has to sift through our players and settle on a new spine for the team. Trying to implement an elaborate expansive game - something New Zealand do not do - would only convolute the problem and leave us more vulnerable. As it stands Meyer wants to add layers as the team develops and I simply cannot accept any criticism of that. South Africans need to grow up and embrace reality.