Francois Steyn saved South Africa from embarrassment on Saturday with his try, after the charge down of an attempted Argentinian clearance kick. This allowed South Africa to secure a draw against Argentina in Mendoza in the Castle Rugby Championship competition. For Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer the honeymoon is now over.
Springboks are too one dimensional
Francois Steyn saved South Africa from embarrassment on Saturday with his try
August 29th, 2012
Meyer had an relatively “easy” start as national rugby coach with first three tests against England and then two against Argentina.
Now it is Australia in Perth on Saturday 8t September and New Zealand in Dunedin on 15 September.
The All Blacks are ranked number one in the world, and Australia is number two, although they looked average in their first two matches in the Castle Rugby Championship against a classy New Zealand outfit.
The two matches in the Championship against Australia and New Zealand in September will be a sound barometer of South Africa’s status in world rugby.
New Zealand delivered a master class in their 22-0 demolition of Australia at Eden Park on Saturday.
Afterwards, Robbie Deans, the Australian coach, described this All Black team as unbeatable, saying they are an even better unit than the team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
"To give credit to our group, I thought it was remarkable we only leaked one try. They're a side that's playing with the confidence of being world champions and I don't think there's any side in the world that would have footed it with them tonight," he told AFP.
What New Zealand demonstrated, is that if you can off load before and in the tackle, you don’t need a ruck and fifteen phases to score one try.
Their backs did not run laterally as South Africa’s back line tended to do against Argentina.
South Africa drew against the Pumas in Mendoza because the hosts dominated the rucks and the collisions, flooded the breakdowns and slowed down possession.
South Africa struggled to impose themselves at the breakdowns and received slow possession from that facet of play. In some cases, Argentina actually poached possession or won penalties.
The Springboks are too one dimensional in their style of play and too predictable and stereotyped. If they wish to win against Australia and New Zealand, they will have to seriously investigate their team selections.
They selected three big ball carriers as loose forwards against the Pumas. But Willem Alberts is certainly a better flanker than an eighth man, and Jacques Potgieter is not the answer playing flank position.
The Boks were missing the ability by a Schalk Burger to play the link role that he fulfilled so admirably during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. They also lacked the ability of a Heinrich Brussöw at the breakdowns to create quicker deliveries to the back line.
Bismarck du Plessis’s absence through injury also robbed the Springboks of an enforcer and a poacher at the breakdowns.
Meyer said afterwards that the Boks let themselves and the country down. But he has to shoulder some blame for the lamentable and conservative style of rugby.
Meyer is an excellent student of the game and a great analyst. If he studied videos of the game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies and Dunedin, he would have detected that the Kiwi’s often off loaded the ball instead of first going to ground and risking the ball being slowed down by the Wallabies before possession can be recycled.
In a match between South Africa and a world-class Argentine five years ago at the Rugby World Cup, the Boks scored two intercept tries. But two more tries – first by Bryan Habana and then by Danie Rossouw before half-time – were excellent examples of the ability of the Boks then to run straight and to use the off loading and linking between forwards and backs to set up scores.
On Saturday, the Boks needed one or two loose forwards with the ability to serve as links between the forwards and backs, to maintain their continuity.
Meyer will have to improve his selections.
A Francois Louw at Bath could provide him with a superior quality loose forward, while Siya Kolisi is another loose-forward whose linking skills can be used.
Unfortunately, Brussöw is still injured.
CJ Stander also played a pivotal role for the Bulls at flank in their win against the Sharks in a Currie Cup match on Saturday, serving as a link with superb vision and passing, which let to three tries. It is a pity that a player of his class will be lost to Ulster and Ireland.
South Africa will have to look at two classy backs in Johann Goosen and JacoTaute to strengthen their ranks.
But ultimately, even the best players cannot flourish in a flawed and very restrictive pattern that is ‘masterminded’ by Meyer. His obsession with the breakdowns, with rucks and high kicks are preventing the Boks to play free-flowing, attacking rugby.
The All Blacks also use rucks and breakdowns, as well as the occasional up-and-under. But their attacking platform is not limited to those options.
The Boks, when neutralised at the breakdowns and with their high kicks fielded well by the back three, have no Plan B. And that is why they were on their way to defeat in Mendoza before Steyn saved the day.
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