It’s time for modern tactics

2012-08-28 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer is not about to throw out the baby with the bath water following the Springboks’ disastrous Rugby Championship draw against newcomers Argentina in Mendoza at the weekend.

Meyer immediately conceded after the 16-16 stalemate that the Boks’ performance was unacceptable and he echoed this view on arriving back in South Africa early yesterday.

But the Bok coach also said he was not about to ditch what little experience he has in the team by making changes.

“It was not good enough, it was unacceptable and I was very disappointed,” Meyer said at a media briefing at Johannesburg airport on his return from Argentina.

But Meyer, clearly feeling the pressure of the job, said it was his duty to ensure that the team improved rather than simply changing the players.

“I always knew it would be very tough in the first year because of the inexperience of the side, and a lot of them were playing their first Test away from home on Saturday.

“It would be easy to simply throw players out and pick new ones. But that’s not coaching, that’s picking,” he said. “I’ve been in this position a few times as a coach and the easiest thing is just to cut players, but that won’t move you forward.”

Meyer said the Pumas were underrated. “Their team who started on Saturday all play in Europe and they are very experienced.”

The overnight loss of a host of quality South African players, among them Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez, John Smit, Jaque Fourie, Schalk Burger, Gurthro Steenkamp and Danie Rossouw, left Meyer with the task of building a new team this year. And his problems have been compounded in recent weeks by the loss of his only remaining two world-class players in influential hooker Bismarck du Plessis and wing JP Pietersen.

But it is the strategy of the new Boks and their conservative style of rugby, rather than the lack of individual form, which has fired up the critics.

The barging, kick-and-charge approach, which has proved effective in the past, relies heavily on forward domination, and the Springboks — as we saw in Mendoza on Saturday night — no longer have the pack to bully and out-muscle international opposition.

The Springboks, and Meyer, need to adapt to the modern game and the changing laws. It would make little difference if Meyer selected a Pat Lambie or a Johan Goosen at flyhalf and then continued to play the same old structured and predictable game. Meyer has to tap into the individual talents of his players and offer something different,

Meyer is to name his 28-man squad for the Tests against Australia (Perth, September 8) and New Zealand (Dunedin, September 15) today, and he said yesterday there would not be major change.

“We’ve already lost a lot of leadership and then you’d be throwing out what little experience you’ve got by making changes.”

He admitted that the Boks would have to improve dramatically if they were to beat the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

“I know we can do it, but the only way the side will improve is by coaching them, improving their technique and mental strength,” Meyer said.

Meyer has only four survivors (Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Morné Steyn and Jannie du Plessis) from the team which lost to the Wallabies in last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final and he certainly deserves a chance to mould his new team.

But unless there are signs in Perth on September 8 that Meyer and the Springboks are indeed willing to change, up their tempo, and move with the times, then the pressure on Meyer from an impatient public and demanding media will continue to grow.

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