Boks will only get better in 2013
December 06, 2012, 01:54:40
Boks will only get better in 2013
South Africa's Springboks Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn and Heinrich Broussow. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville
It’s with some sense of relief that we bid the 2012 rugby season farewell. Too much of a good thing, they say…
South Africa ended the year on a high by remaining unbeaten on their tour of Europe. The Springboks battled hard for their victories over Ireland, Scotland and England and
cemented a top-four spot in the IRB rankings ahead of the pool draw for the 2015 World Cup.
Despite their performances leaving a lingering feeling of emptiness among fans, the team showed the
potential to improve considerably.
Heyneke Meyer claimed that the season was a success given that the injury-hit Boks conceded only
three losses. Even when one counts the draws against England and Argentina the team statistically
performed fairly well.
However, all the talk of win ratios and statistics is
secondary to the quality of rugby the Boks produced.
Suspect selections and an outdated game plan cast
a cloud over the team’s accomplishments.
The Boks were good in patches, predictably in the
forwards which remains their strength. Meyer
can pat himself on the back for basically creating
a pack from scratch that competed with the All Blacks
and even dominated the world champions for much of their clash in Dunedin.
Bar the 32-16 defeat to New Zealand at FNB Stadium,
South Africa also displayed miserly defence.
The way the clearly fatigued Boks managed to keep
out their opponents during the latter stages of their
end-of-year tour matches demonstrated a brilliant bloody-minded resolve.
But the inability of our backs to fire, to show even a
sense of attacking rugby, is a massive concern.
You can blame backline coach Ricardo Loubscher
(who was in charge of Blue Bulls age-group teams before his Bok callup) as much as you like, but Meyer’s game plan was at the root of the problem.
Mistakes included selecting Jaco Taute at 13,
Francois Hougaard on the wing, and instructing Ruan Pienaar and whoever wore the No 10 jersey to hoof the
ball up the field whenever the Boks were on the park.
Meyer needs to build an attacking game plan around
players selected in their natural positions to give the
Boks a chance to put teams away once they have them on the ropes.
When Meyer relaxes his ‘bigger, heavier’ policy
and selects more of the genuine ball players he has available to take advantage of our awesome forward platform, the Boks will beat the All Blacks at least
once next year.
Fortunately Meyer started showing a willingness
to admit mistakes and adjust his strategy towards the end of the season. His instructions to Pat Lambie to
play his natural game ahead of the clash with England last week was proof of that.
Despite an unsatisfying year, fans can take comfort from the fact that the Boks now have a squad for 2013 that is
strong across the park in every position (with the exception of fullback).
With the usual player exodus and retirements after the
World Cup Meyer’s first season was always going to be tough. The coach however deserves credit for blooding youngsters and building experience.
Next year will see the return of stalwarts such as
Bismarck du Plessis, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow and Pierre Spies, none of whom
will simply walk back into the Bok starting XV mind you.
We’ll also see Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn reuniting
at the Sharks for an entire Super Rugby season, and Elton Jantjies playing off the massive advantage a
world-class Stomers pack will offer him. These factors can only bode well for the Bok attack.
For now the players and coaches will enjoy a
well-earned break before returning to the drawing
board. With the Bok coach steady does it and we can expect steady improvement until South Africa reach their full potential.