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2975 Topic: Fixing the Springboks....another view

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Fixing the Springboks....another view
November 13, 2012, 16:46:56

One has to start with the question, what does "fixing" mean. For the sake of argument, let's suppose it means developing a more open style of play, while retaining our traditional forward edge. 


Right there you have the first conflict. Our forward edge has come with very big loosies eg Alberts and Vermeulen, along with the not so small Louw. These big chaps are great close in to the breakdown, but get out wide and they struggle. Against the Bargies every time the ball went past 12, we seemed to get turned at the next breakdown.


If we really want to play a running game, we need a fetcher. And we need an out wide defender like Big Joe. The only player in the mix that seems to fit that description is Kankowski. In the last S15 Kankan finally showed signs of physically maturing. It was a big loss to not build him into our new team.


Whether Louw is the right fetcher is questionable. But he was a big step up on young Coetzee, who to me is neither fish nor fowl nor legume. He is not a fetcher, not a power forward, not a great open field runner. So he becomes a tackler mostly.....but even there he got gassed by de Jongh for his CC winning try. I just can't see how he is going to make an impact in tests.


Then we get to the locks. We have had the enormous benefit of the greatest lock to play the game, Victor Matfield. The backs run the ball 80 metres and who looms up on the end of the movement to score.....Victor. Mathew Tait shreds Fransie in the RWC final and who tackles him in open field 5 metres out....the great Victor. This man provided line out ball within the blink of an eye to the scrummie's hands in exactly the right locale for a perfect pass.  Some say he wasn't physical, but I saw Matfield rip prop forwards away from the tryline with one arm.....he was plenty physical and massively durable.


Therein lies the problem, his logical replacement, Bekker is massively fragile. A great open field player, probably the best offloader out of the tackle in SA rugby.....he can't string two games together. But we need a genuine 5 lock if we want the mobility to support a running game. Flip Flop can't do that, he is 4 we are left with Juandre Kruger. But we need better options in this area.


To me 4 locks and tightheads are the foundation of the power game. In this regard Etzebeth is a gift. Quite mobile, powerful and a good lineout option. He can be our second all time great lock in two generations. No concerns there if he stays injury free.


The front row has the least to say about the open game and in Bismarck we have the perfectly balanced hooker everybody wants. Also a great fetcher.  Jannie is just a scrummager, don't mess with it. But at loosehead the Beast offers unique abilities to support the running game. He must be among the 3 fastest test props around, and he can swerve and step. Why we haven't devised a few set moves that use his capacities beats me. But his issues are a concern.


The net of all this is, if we really want to run the ball and win, there is huge work to be done in honing the pack to support that kind of game. And we need to enhance the forwards running, passing and linking software. I think it was Hakwa who alluded to NZ's advantage in this regard. Schalk is a great linking forward, I can't think of another SA forward who really gets it.....the pure art of linking. 

All this and we haven't even started talking about the backs yet.


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RE: Fixing the Springboks....another view
November 13, 2012, 20:58:27


It is always nice to read your comments - especially in respect of great players of the past.   However, recollections won't help.   Some in fact are contradictory - I can remember the number of times I swore when Mattfield as an extra center - destroying backline moves in the process.  He did score an occassional try - but how many backline moves did he destroy in the process?

However, I would like to ask you about the issue of the so-called fetcher as is provided for in the latest laws.   As I undestand it players can effect turnovers before mauls are formed.   Once there is a maul attempted fetching results in penalties.   Nowadays mauls are very quickly formed by the backline players to avoid potential turnovers.   In essence what is meant is that the fetcher role must in essence be fulfilled by the player next to the tackler - before the maul is formed.   If for instance a tackle is made on the wing - the no 13 center or the full back could be the fetchers.   I have often seen that role being fulfilled by Habana and Pietersen.

That brings me to the real question I want to ask   - why is the no 6 flank identified as the "fetcher", by implication the only fetcher on the field?

Unless the no 6 has the speed of lighyning he cannot get to the tackle spot in time to do the so-called fetching before a maul is formed.   Those who attempt that when the maul is formed and they eventually get there late get penalized all the time.   I think Meyer realized that and he said so in the past.      In my opinion every player on the field could or should  be a fetcher - the idea that it must be the no 6 flank is a fallacy.   If the no 6 is near enough and get their in seconds - yes he can try and win the ball. 

That being the case - why do we keep on hammering the fetcher role without regard to the latest changes to the law?  I think that the number 6 flank must be selected with due regard to the standard performances expected from a loosie in both attack and defence - without adding the fictional so-called fecther requirement.  I think very few members actually accept that basic truth and keep on referring to the no 6 flank as the "fetcher"   Really funny though.

I am in agreement with you about the issue of the loosies - they are big and on the slow side.   I tend to agree with you that we need at least one faster loosie and not three big and slow ones like we have at present.   I would say that that player sould play at 8 and that the heavier players should be at 6 and 7.    That is where the future to my mind is Coetzee in the first instance and otherwise Kankowski and even Daniels.   There is a observation about Coetzee that really is very questionable.   You accuse him of being a poor ball carrier.   What really do you want - a speedy heavy ball carrier????  Not available anywhere.   I would pick Coetzee antyime as the speedy player - the main reason is that he is the best off-loader of the ball in tackle situations we have at present in SA.

I agree with you about Etzebeth and that we need to find some other locks.   I am not happy wih Kruger though.   I am sure that the coming Super 15 will show us who relly are the best partners and repacements for Etzebeth.    Similar to Etzebeth there are other younger players that would definitely mstake their claim in future.   I am confident that some of the younger players especially will comne through.

The back up props is still a problem.   We must forget about the fat and unfit "experienced" players - they aare in fact an embarrassment.    I think that ultimattely Oosthuizen (if he can get over the presnet injury problems), Kitshoff and Malherbe will probably be the answer in the medium and longer term..     



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RE: Fixing the Springboks....another view
November 13, 2012, 23:17:53

Mike, thanks for that serious reply. I find when one gets away from player comparisons or dissing the coach, interest drops dramatically. But the main point I'm making is, I think, somewhat novel ie that far from the backs being the only issue with the running game, probably the bigger difficulty lies in changing the forwards to provide wider coverage.


On your specific point of Meyer claiming everybody needing to be a fetcher, this predates even Jake. De Wet Barry was a splendid fetcher, so was von Biljon. But there is a role for a compact player who challenges ball on the ground close to the rucks. Louw's ability to do this lifted our game.


The essential point is 90% of the running is done close to the ruck. So if you have a few big tacklers who stop momentum dead....the fetcher can dart in and fetch right over the top of the downed player....move after move. I recall the fetching frenzies of George Smith where literally every time we ran he was 50/50 to get the ball.


Nothing in the rules has stopped this kind of player from being effective. And if you want to play ball in hand rugby, you best have one of these guys protecting your possession.

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