End of Year Tour - Perspective
November 25, 2012, 12:26:11
Now lets consider the following and see how "successful" this tour was from an overall perspective - since South Africa won all three games played and the real performnce scenario of the teams concerned and there is so much happiness in certain quarters by the victories against Ireland, Scoland and England. Fact is the team in all three matches struggled badly and they could have lost all three easily - but for strong defence against attacking opposition.
This really was a touch and go test and probably the oie test where SA plyed against a team that later in the season did not disgrace themselves insoffar as performances of performances by some players were concerned. In this regard it must be borne in mind that subsequent to their game against the Sprinfboks - the Irish beat both Fiji easily and Argentina comprehensively. The fact is that the Fiji game could not be utilized as a real norm insofar as the 15 man game is concerned - Fiji is very strong in the 7 aside game - but not really a contender for honours in tests. The real comparison is the game Ireland played against Argentina. In this game Ireland really showed exceptional performance ability. South Africa earlier this year struggled againt Argentina and although beating them comprehensively in Cape Town drew against the Argentinians in Mendoza.
Other than in the SA test and against Argentina - the Irish performances this year was a mixed bag. They played New Zealand in three tests and lost all three - two of them badly and the third one rather surprisingly by a narrow margin. Since the New Zealand tests the Irish brought in some younger players and seeing the situation in a wider context - their renewal programme paid some dividends. They obviously are a better team now than they were in the test series against the All Blacks.
The fact remain that the Springboks did not really perform well against the Irish and especially the second half display was very poor and the Irish could easily have beaten them. Ireland will probably end up higher than expected on the Six-Nations log if their latest performances are taken into account.
In essence the fact remains that the Spribngbok performance on the whole was led by a core of players that performed well in all three tests and those included Strauss, Etzebeth and their loosies, as well as Pienaar. For the rest Lambie and De Villiers was solid - but the rest of the team was really not up to scratch. The greatest weakness in the team was their props and especially Van der Linde.
The Scottish Test
This really was a test that South Africa should have won with ease - but we sttruggled badly and was in fact only saved by an intercept try scored by Strauss after a passing mistake by the Scots. But for that mistake by the Scors - there was no way that the Springboks could have won the game.
Scotland lost by a huge margin to the All Blacks and now also lost against Tonga. The latter team is not really a top level contender and in fact had a better performance against the Scots than the Springboks did. Despite all the hullabaloo about the win - the very poor performance of the Springboks could not have been put into a positive light. The same players that did well against the Irish was in fact also good performers afainst the Scots and the same weaknesses as to the props and outside center was in evidence.
This really was a very poor performance by the Springboks against a below par team.
The English Test
Another lucky win for the Springboks against a team that beat irself - rather than the Springboks beating them. England played by far the better rugby during the test and the Springboks only real weapon was their defence that held out. The win was the result of a freakish try scored by the Springboks and also due to a mistake by going for post and not kicking for the corner in the final minutes of the game. Must admit the result was to a substantial extent influenced by a referee that should never ref tests.
The issue here is that the same weaknesses repeat itself - Lambie had a far better game in this test at flyhalf - but Pienaar was poorer than in the other tests. Steenkamp was slightly better at prop than his dismal performance against the Scots - but still not really the best around. De Jongh played at 13 - but was no factoor and clearly way out of depth on international level. The key players remained the same as was the case in the other two tests.
Despite the three wins there are serious deficiencies in the team that needs to be corrected and one accepts that the performances were the fact that key players were absenrt as a result of injury to players and the fact that their replacement was not up to standard on international level.
15 - Kirchner on the whole was satisfactory in all three games and his performance was solid. However, the future candidature of Taute for selection would be detrmined in the 2013 Super Series and Taute may end up as the full back of the future.
14 - Hougaard at wing was a mixed bag. His performances against the Irish and Scots were way below par and against the English somewhat better. He was a stopgap wing at best and now intends to concentrate on playing as a scrummie in future. Obviously not wing material and if he can correct some deficiencies in performance that crept into his game earlier in 2012 - will be a strong contender as future scrummie. We will see what happens in Super 15 next year and must hope for the best. As to the future Habana remains the main contender and the backup wings could potentially be Mvovo and Rhule - but the Super Series will show a way forward.
13 - Meyer made a farce of selection here and he only had two options as to playing at 13 during the games - namely Taute (included in the squad as a full back) and De Jongh. Taute with due respect had a very average game against the Irish and then vanished from the scene and did not play any role in the last two tests. He intends to continue with his playing career at full back and will consequently play in that position in future. De Jongh in reality was not a factor in the Scottish test and was clearly below par in that game. In the English test he vanished into thin air and played no role whatsoever in the test. He obviously is NOT international material and once again proved that his average to poor performances in the Super Series was not accidental - but a real reflection of his playing abilities. Some very real new selection is required in future. A stopgap measure would be to try and play De Villiers in this position in future - but it is doubtful whether thar would be a success. The other alternative of a player with the required vision and better skills would be Jordaan. The Super Series of 2013 woukld indicate the way forward in this case. One can only hope that Meyer would learn from his mistake and not select below-par players in future.
12. - De Villiers played in this position in all three tests and was no real factor on attack - but very good in defence. In attack he constantly crashballed without some real benefits arising from that facet of the play - maybe because of the poor center partner he was saddled with. Much has been said about Francois Sreyn - but is he really the answer at 12? I watched the repeat games on ESPN on the 2007 WC and Steyn was not really top class - that poor defending effort when he allowed Tait through was really a negarive and showed some deficiency in defence. In the test earlier this year Steyn was not a real factor ever. He in fact performed poorly in the away tests in the Championship and then was injured. There was a clear indication that he was slower than he should be and to an extent over-weight. He will have to prove that he is still up to standard in the Super Series in 2013 and will have Lambie and Jordaan playing both sides of him. If he does not up his game - he should not be considered in future as number 12. De Villiers due to age factor is unlikely to last much longer. The future selections could come from Steyn - if he performs better in Super 15 - and thereafter the field is wide open. Of the yonger contenders there are a number of options. The only one that really impressed was Jordaan in the Super Series final - when he played opposite SBW - so he could be considered. De Allende played very well in the CC Final and had shown one ability that neither De Villiers and Steyn showed this year - the ability to off-load balls effectively in tackle situations. Other potential contenders are few and far between. Venter was harmless playing for the Bulls and Whitehead was very average in games plated by the Sharks. Serfonetin was not utlized by the Bulls ever in 2012 and despite the class he showed in the WC Under 20 Championship is at this stage a dark horse in the race for selection. This really is a problem area that needs to be addressed.
11 - Pietersen is absolute class and showed how ellhe really can play with a good number 13 around. His performances playing ourside Jordaan was really impressive in the Super Series this year. Possible replacements have already been indicated earlier.
10 - On average Lambie performed well enough to be a major contender at flyhalf in future. Goosen is obviously the other contender for the position. Jantjies is a farcical selection and is unlikely to be in the picture in future and Steyn is a joke. On the whole not too much to worry about in future - as the options available are clear and the contenders way ahed of the other aspirants that could contend for selection.
9 - Pienaar was a mixed bag in the tests played. He played well against the Irish and less so against the English. However, he still remains a strong contender for selection in future. In his discussion on the test Mattfield mentioned also that something went wrong with Hougaard this year and by implication - as attack coach for the Bulls - he is going to try and correct the problem. He also mnentioned that Fourie Du Preez may be a factor next year - but the obvious emphasis appears to be to get Hougaard up to scratch in future.
8 - Vermeulen did exceptionally well in the tests played and is a hard worker. He will remain the top contender in 2013 - since Meyer obviously like his style of play. He has some deficiencies in the speed department though. On the whole the other contenders are Spies (not relly a number 8) - who really is a show pony vanishing from site frequently) and I would say Arno Botha and Marcel Coetzee.
7 - Alberts remain a contender - despite his relative lack of speed. A strong ball-carrier and sound defender proven his worth in the recent tests. The other contenders could be Burger - but he has not played any rugby this year and there is no indication that he would repeat his previous performances. Outside chances are Elstadt and Liebenberg. However, there are no real problems - there are a number of good contenders.
6 - Louw is a stand-out player. There are still people mentioing Brussow as a candidate - but I do not really think his performances were acceptable in 2012 and the only real alternative remains Coetzee. Juan Smith has not played any rugby since 2011 and is now said to be returning to play for the Cheetahs (?). A dark horse - but if he does continue to play forthe Cheetahs one to watch in future. On the old side for a long term contender in any event.
5 - Kruger is to my mind very average and was the same in the tests this year. He was also not really a house on fire in the Super Series and CC in 2012. He could remain in the picture - but there are younger players coming through that could prove to be better than him and the 2013 Super Series will indicate real future contenders. My money is on Du Toit in this regard.
4 - Etzebeth is the real star lock we have and his replacement in the case of injury would proibably be Van der Merwe. The latter had one good test this year (at Dunedin) and got yellow-carded in two appearances. He is not really a top contender and we will have to watch out for younger players coming through to carry the baf if Etzeberh cannot play.
Props - Meyer really made a farce of selections for the tour. His selection of Van der Linde really was a bad joke and Steenkamp was only slightly better - he did not disgrace himself like Van der Linde did. Steenkamp was not up to standard in the Scottish test and showed some signs of life in the English test. The obvious key selections in future remain the Beast and Jannie Du Plessis - with future selections being Oosthuizen, Kitshoff and Malherbe. The Super 15 will really showed the way forward in this case.
Hookers - no future problems here. The key players remain Strauss and Du Plessis - the latter remains te best hooker in world rugby.
Meyer should never again make the serious mistake he made in the squad selection for the past tour. He picked a number of players that he never intended to play in the first instance and thus left gaps that could not be filled by any players on the tour. In essence he picked two players from the NH clubs that played well in Pienaar and Louw - the rest was really not up to standard. On the whole the latter was a poor strategy that did not work out.