SA TEAMS NEED TO PLAY WITH PANACHE, SKILL

Pretoria News - - SPORT - MIKE GREEN­AWAY mike.green­[email protected]

IT has taken five rounds of Su­per Rugby for it to be­come ap­par­ent that South Africa’s teams in gen­eral are suf­fer­ing from a World Cup han­gover as to how the game should be played.

The Sharks aside, we are still see­ing too much ob­ses­sion with the power game that won the Spring­boks the Webb El­lis Cup last year and not enough evo­lu­tion to­wards play­ing with panache and skill.

The Storm­ers, per­haps un­der­stand­ably be­cause they have the bulk of the Bok pack that was suc­cess­ful in Ja­pan, are overly re­liant on for­ward dom­i­na­tion when they have such tal­ented backs.

And when their for­wards were nul­li­fied for the first time this sea­son, by the Blues on Satur­day, they looked all at sea.

The thing with World Cups is that you can win them by play­ing low-risk “tour­na­ment rugby”, as the Boks did. Di­rec­tor of rugby Rassie Eras­mus cut his suit ac­cord­ing to his cloth but that doesn’t mean he and new Bok coach Jac­ques Nien­aber want SA teams to play like that for­ever and a day.

Be­cause if they do, no new value is be­ing added to the na­tional team’s reper­toire.

The Sharks are the one team that will have Eras­mus and Nien­aber nod­ding in sat­is­fac­tion be­cause they have de­vel­oped their at­tack – they play with a very clear in­ten­tion of us­ing a highly-phys­i­cal de­fence to force turnovers from which they counter-at­tack with verve, skill and deadly af­fect – and sud­denly the world is talk­ing about the likes of Aphelele Fassi, Ma­dosh Tambwe, Sanele No­hamba; and en­thus­ing ever more about Maka­zole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi.

Now con­trast the Bulls with the Sharks.

They are a des­per­ate dis­ap­point­ment with their unimag­i­na­tive ap­proach and fully de­serve to be win­less, and this sta­tus quo doesn’t look like it is go­ing to change any time soon.

Not when they lurch back into the Dark Ages play­ing a game based on the pre­his­toric boot of 35-year-old Morne Steyn.

Watch­ing them blun­der about against the Jaguares in Pre­to­ria last week, it was dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that it was only two years ago that (for­mer All Black coach) John Mitchell had them play­ing a re­fresh­ing, off-load­ing game that lit up Lof­tus.

Steyn should be men­tor­ing 22-year-old Manie Lib­bok, who can play with flair, but in­stead Steyn has be­come the fo­cal point of the Bulls’ game as coach Pote Hu­man feels the heat and takes the con­ser­va­tive route.

The Lions have also dis­ap­pointed with an ap­proach that is a de­par­ture from the DNA that made them three-time fi­nal­ists be­tween 2016 and 2018.

There have been times in their games on the Highveld where they showed glimpses of their old dev­il­may-care ap­proach, and they need to iden­tify that, and cul­ti­vate it.

What we have seen over­all from SA teams is that they are heav­ily set­piece fo­cussed af­ter it won the Boks the World Cup.

There is noth­ing wrong with that – it re­mains the skele­ton of the 15-man game – pro­vided you are also pre­pared to add the flesh of cre­ative, at­tack­ing rugby.

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