Twick­en­ham win just pa­pered over cracks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

Awin is a win, as the old say­ing goes, and when it is against Eng­land at Twick­en­ham, it’s par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing. It was a great feel­ing last Satur­day night to be a South African among all the sub­dued English hacks who had over­hyped their team into the world-beat­ers that, on last week’s ev­i­dence, they are a long way from be­ing.

But while the win was grat­i­fy­ing, once the emo­tion dies down hope­fully the ad­min­is­tra­tors will show a bit of rugby in­tel­li­gence and do what I said they should in this col­umn last week – look be­yond the re­sult of one match and do a proper anal­y­sis of where the Boks are at the end of a sea­son where there have been two de­feats to ev­ery one vic­tory against top na­tions.

In fact, if they do know the game, they shouldn’t even need to look too far be­yond the 80 min­utes we saw last Satur­day to fig­ure out that the Boks are an un­der­coached team and that an in­jec­tion of imag­i­na­tive think­ing cou­pled with tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise is sorely needed.

Skip­per Vic­tor Mat­field said af­ter­wards that the win had been a tri­umph for ac­cu­racy and ex­e­cu­tion. The big man had just played 60 min­utes of a Test match with a bro­ken rib, so per­haps we should ex­cuse him. He hadn’t yet done what I did on the Sun­day morn­ing af­ter the match, which was to watch the game again on video.

What the re­play showed was that in a weird way, the Spring­boks’ finest vic­tory of the rugby year did as much to ex­pose the weak­nesses in their game as some of the big de­feats they suf­fered in the TriNa­tions in mid-year.

The Boks won the match by blud­geon­ing Eng­land into sub­mis­sion at for­ward and through their phys­i­cal­ity. They showed that they still have the grunt to beat most op­pos­ing teams on a given day when they are mo­ti­vated enough and an­gry enough. That has never been a point of de­bate in South African rugby. It is summed up by that lit­tle word “ gees”.

But if the Boks are go­ing to ever reign like true world cham­pi­ons they need con­sis­tency. That means they are go­ing to have to stop look­ing so clue­less on those days that op­pos­ing teams do man­age to front up to their phys­i­cal­ity, or on those oth­ers when teams like New Zealand play in such a way that negates the Bok strengths.

What was there to the Bok game last week apart from grunt and, okay, an im­proved de­fen­sive ef­fort and a more ac­cu­rate kick­ing game than they had man­aged for quite a while? What the video showed was a slew of ele­men­tary er­rors and a level of dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion on at­tack that would have em­bar­rassed most of the pro­vin­cial coaches in this coun­try.

I was at the game hav­ing my fin­gers frozen off, so did not lis­ten to the com­men­tary at the time, but when I heard it the next day I couldn’t help but agree with the com­ment made at half-time: “That was pos­si­bly the most one-sided 6-all half in the his­tory of the game”. With all the pos­ses­sion they had, the Boks should have been 20 points ahead.

Eng­land did de­fend well, but the Boks helped them by drop­ping balls, run­ning into each other and mak­ing a com­plete mess of their set-plays. There was none of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and pre­ci­sion we see in the strate­gies of the top South African pro­vin­cial teams and Su­per rugby fran­chises.

While they got the right re­sult, and the for­ward ef­fort was huge, if there was a step-up in over­all rugby qual­ity from the pre­vi­ous games of the tour, then it doesn’t say much for their other per­for­mances.

That has to be a con­cern to South African Rugby Union pres­i­dent Ore­gan Hoskins and his fel­low ad­min­is­tra­tors. Be­ing blinded by the re­sult is okay for fans and peo­ple who take just a sur­face view of ev­ery­thing can be ex­cused their ig­no­rance.

For most peo­ple there hope­fully are more im­por­tant things in life to worry about, so be­ing com­pletely clued up about rugby shouldn’t be a re­quire­ment.

But for the peo­ple who run the game it should be dif­fer­ent. They should have the rugby acu­men to know just by look­ing at the Bok games this year that while they are clearly in­tent on stick­ing with the Jake White tem­plate, their ap­pli­ca­tion and ex­e­cu­tion of that game has now re­gressed to a point where Scot­land have a chance of beat­ing them on a given day.

The de­bate over whether the Boks should per­haps be rein­vent­ing them­selves, a con­tention you would in all like­li­hood hear from Sharks Cur­rie Cup win­ning coach John Plumtree, is a sep­a­rate is­sue. What is at is­sue is the way the Boks have been al­lowed to reach a stage where, if they do get their kick and chase right, it hap­pens only once in a while.

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