Rugby Championship

Boks encouraged to play with freedom, but 'champagne rugby' is a no-no

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Makazole Mapimpi. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
Makazole Mapimpi. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
  • Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has countered criticism that the team lacks unpredictability on attack.
  • He points to the try-scoring records of wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe as evidence for the Boks creating space for outside backs.
  • But Stick also says playing "champagne rugby" doesn't come naturally to the side and that freedom to take attacking opportunities only comes by applying pressure through other means first.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick insists his players "always have the freedom" to follow their own intuition on the field.

The national team's style of play continues to be put under scrutiny by outsiders, with former World Cup-winning England mentor Clive Woodward once again leading the chorus, arguing that rugby will be "dead in five years" if other teams follow the same recipe as the world champions.

South Africa, ironically, outscored the Wallabies three tries to one in last week's 28-26 loss on the Gold Coast, but did so from three rolling mauls.

As a result, there's still a view that the Boks should encourage more unpredictability to their attack ahead of Saturday's Rugby Championship meeting with the selfsame Australians in Brisbane.

READ | Clive Woodward: Rugby will be dead in 5 years if it follows the Springboks' style

Yet, according to Stick, that's exactly what they're trying to do.

"Creating space for the guys on the outside is always part of the plan," he said on Friday.

"The players are the game-drivers. If the space is out there for them to take, they have the freedom to do so. They are making decisions and we train that a lot. 

"I wouldn't really say that we're not looking for opportunities."

Stick pointed to the try-scoring record of wing Makazole Mapimpi, who's scored 16 tries in just 19 internationals, as evidence that the Boks are empowering their backs.

In fact, seven of South Africa's 12 tries in the 2021 international season has been scored by backline players.

"If you look at our wings' strike-rates, Makazole has 16. Cheslin Kolbe also usually scores week-in and week-out," said Stick.

"When it comes to creating space for them, [those stats show] that creating space is part of our game. They must make the decisions, when it's on, they must take it."

As the Boks' off-the-ball specialist, Stick, however, has developed a keen sense of viewing matters from a holistic perspective, explaining why he also points out tries for outside backs don't boil down to a team playing expansive rugby.

"We're not going to try and force things and this type of champagne rugby that everyone is talking about," he said.

"It's just not in us. The most important thing is that we're playing the pressure game. We apply pressure through the boot or set-pieces or hands. If opportunities come from that, we take it."

Kick-off is at 09:05 (SA time).


15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Feleti Kaitu'u, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia


15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
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