Gentlemen don't always win

Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Let us put the SA vs NZ Rugby Game in perspective.

It was a marvellous affair on Saturday - one of the best games I have seen! It had everything - passion, drama, excitement, verve, strength, courage, bravery, and an element of gladiatorial battle. Well done NZ on this win! You showed epic class. And well done to Nigel Owens for a brilliant game of refereeing.  

To however, diminish SA by saying that NZ is in a league of its own, might be a bit far fetched. I think SA in some ways lost the game more, than NZ won it out rightly. And if we look at the RC of this year, SA were almost better performers in every single game against opposition, save for the debacle at Eden Park, which rightfully should have been declared a non-affair. In fact, if it was different, and SA had won, then the last game could have changed entirely in the approach - namely SA playing to its strength of tight and controlled rugby.

I don’t think NZ is as much ahead, as SA has made up ground to compete with them. The same NZ side, could not put Argentina or the Wallabies away in 2 of their games, the same as SA could not close the door on the Wallabies and Argentina on their return games. And bear in mind, NZ has been favoured by the whistle on countless occasions when other teams would have received their marching orders. Oh this is by no mean sour grapes, but rather taking an objective view of the game.

The PD differs by one point, the tries scored differs by 1 try, almost the same. SA made more clean breaks, ran more metres and had the least yellow cards. But guess where we suffered - our tackle success is only 3% lower than ABs, but the ABS beat defenders 24 more times and offloaded 28 more times. It shows an interesting perspective... (reference: http://www.sanzarrugby.com/therugbychampionship/competition-stats/team-ranking/)

South Africa is beginning to play an attacking brand of rugby, but with the mind-set of a defensive team or a team which does not demonstrate all out attacking skills - we don’t offload and we are not able to run into spaces as effectively AND/OR we primarily play off the forwards. Therefore, if we can have the same number of tries, it says a lot about the potential we can truly unleash when we bring into play these other facets. And as much as the coaching staff want the players to break out of a mould to live up to their potential, in the self-same vein the coach needs to break out of his predefined paradigm regarding certain players, substitution and the game plan.  

NZ did not run rings around us - we were sloppy on defence and in the air, areas which are normally our strengths. What however the ABs DID demonstrate - it is that they are a more complete outfit and bring balance to their total game, and when the opposition makes mistakes, they are clinical in pouncing on such err.

But I wish to save the following for last ....

South Africa demonstrated a sportsmanship unlike I have seen for a while. They played the man, not the ball - they refused to get overtly drawn into silly incidences, they forgave NZ their "tactical error" of printing the wrong name and lastly, they were gracious and complimentary in defeat. Proud of the way they played and the gentlemen they are.

Whether this helps them be champions is another story, as the game is won primarily on the field...but for now, they're the Champions in our hearts and our support is no less!

Siegfried Jegels

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