Koos Kombuis

Bok rugby resembles a series of hit-and-run accidents

2015-11-16 09:22

Koos Kombuis

I’m not sure if I’d like Heyneke Meyer to stay on as Springbok coach or not.

Neither am I sure whether this is a topic that is worth devoting an entire column to. Right now, there are far weightier issues to address than the fate of South African rugby.

Should I keep my mouth shut and leave rugby to the experts? Every time in the past when I tried to contribute to the Big Rugby Debate, I was proven wrong. I was, for instance, wrong, when, in an Afrikaans column last year, I pleaded for the return of fly-half Morné Steyn. Morné Steyn, I fear, was given one last chance, and he blew it. It is a very sad thing to accept the departure of Morné Steyn.

In fact, in my mind, the loss of Morné Steyn is as sad as reading about the scientific discovery that red meat is as dangerous to our health as asbestos. What about Tim Noakes’s career, dammit? (A drum roll and a sob for yesterday’s heroes, please.)

We are living in strange times indeed. Perhaps it is safer, after all, to focus on Springbok rugby.

There are two schools of thought, I notice. One group of people on Facebook thinks we did quite well at the RWC. The minister of sport, Fikile Mbalule, said the same thing on Twitter (unless his Twitter profile is fake, he is probably the only member of the ANC cabinet with a sense of humour).

I can see the merit of this point of view. After all, we got a better score against the All Blacks than everyone else. In fact, we were a mere two points short of victory against The Greatest Rugby Team Of All Time!

Then, there is another group of people who reckon that the Boks had no real working game plan as such. One person said they looked like a bunch of primary school boys bullying one another in a playground. People say that, when the Boks were not losing the ball in dead-end mauls, they threw away possession with endless pointless kicks downfield.

It’s hard to disagree with this. Let’s be honest with ourselves and ask the question: What, in fact, WAS our game plan? Was it really just that: an endless sequence of falling about in rucks and pointlessly kicking the ball away?  

Of course, there’s another name for these rucks and mauls. They call them “phases”. Pardon me, but aren’t “phases” supposed to go forwards instead of backwards? Maybe we should have taken Heinrich Brüssow along after all.

Speaking of talented players. We actually had a lot of those in the team. Such as the brilliant centre, De Allende. Pity he was mostly used as a battering-ram. Is this player being managed correctly? He is, after all, not a rhinoceros! What if this type of tactic leads to burnout? We all know what happened to Henry Honniball in the end.

Where were the full backline movements, the magic interaction between the centres? Surely we are capable of playing like that. We have seen it in the past.

Alas, instead of flowing backline movements, the backline was constantly cluttered up with loose forwards playing out of position. This same tactic was used repetitively, monotonously.

Okay, we had the reputation of being a “physical” team. Somehow this reputation meant nothing against Japan…

Statistics seem to point to dominance, though. Apart from good scorelines (except for the disastrous Japan game), we had a fantastic tackle rate. The significance of this statistic pales a bit when you compare it to other statistics: even against the teams we ended up beating, the other guys often had the lions’ share of territory and possession.

And that, in a nutshell, is why our tackle percentage was so extraordinary high. We were FORCED into negative play. It was just defend, defend all the way, or go down.

Of course, there were moments of pure magic on the attack. But those were few and far between.

My favourite was the new-fangled backhand passes that sometimes worked so brilliantly. It was a tactic copied from New Zealand. Most of the time, unfortunately, we couldn’t get it right, though the few times it was executed right, it was really exciting. Seeing those successful passes was like discovering an accidental line of rhyme in the work of a free verse poet. If only we could get these things right all the time! We’d a have more than poetry, we’d have a hit song on our hands! The Boks would be top of the pops!

Unfortunately, instead of a hit song, our style of play, most of the time, resembled a series of hit-and-run accidents.

So: is Heyneke Meyer still the right guy for the job?

With all his antics, he performed like a conductor, but did all his waving and gesticulating actually create the right music?

Oh, the job of a Springbok coach is difficult, for sure. And I’m sure he did his best. But was he efficient?

Is the Post office efficient at delivering our parcels? Even though they are trying very hard?

Unfortunately, we are stuck with the Post Office.

And unless someone better pitches up, we might be stuck with Heyneke Meyer. The dreadful truth is that, apart from Eddie Jones, who got snatched up by the Capetonians, there are not a lot of really good available contenders for Meyer’s job right now.

Bummer.

Sometimes I can’t help feeling nostalgic for the golden days of Bok rugby. I find myself reminiscing about people like Dok Craven, like Oubaas Mark…

Those were the days when we still knew what we were doing on the rugby field! When we had real tactics, and didn’t need to rely on happy accidents!

Then again, perhaps I better keep my mouth shut. So, please pass me the asbestos, mate, I feel a bit peckish.

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