On Saturday afternoon I shot down the M1 to capture the Lions Bulls Currie Cup match (in images which you can view here) and since it’s always good to get to the stadium early, I settled into the media centre hoping to engage with some rugby scribes on the performance that had most South African rugby fans tearing their hair out.
Surprisingly, most said they didn’t watch the game live and some, decided they wouldn’t bother, based on the score. It was a tough sell to convince anyone that the Springboks, at least in the first half, completely dominated the possession and territory stats. It was almost embarrassing to admit though that we only had one chance to score and Elton “Jan-Keys” (my best kiwi accent) fluffed the only kick at goals in the 8th minute.
I don’t want to debate the line-up at all. In my opinion all the players selected are good enough, maybe one player offers more in one area than another but overall, injuries permitted, I think this is a team that should not lose by 57 points to anyone, not even the All Blacks.
For me the problem lies in the way the Springboks played the game. I can’t understand why the best defensive exit strategy is to kick the ball back to the team with the best attacking players in the world. The All Blacks’ forwards have phenomenal handling skills. The loose forwards have the handling skills and the speed of backs on top of the bulk.
In what coaching manual does it say “give their best players the ball”? It boggles the mind that kicking deep down the middle of the field is an acceptable strategy to any player, let alone any coach. I can accept kicking the ball to touch and trying to steal the odd line out but punting it downfield hoping for what? A knock-on? A lucky bounce? Come on Coetzee, have you watched New Zealand play?
— RunRideDive (@RunRideDive) September 16, 2017
I know our line out was disaster in this game but it’s not normally the case and no one knew Marx would have a complete mare on the day in advance so there is no rational reason to just kick the ball everywhere but out.
With close on 70% of possession the Boks still trudged off the field at half time 31 points to zero down. Did the coaching staff go chat to the players? Were they waylaid by a cocktail waitress with two trays of shooters and think this is more important than saving some dignity? I hope so, because the Springboks needed an intervention and clearly didn’t get it.
I hope so, because if our coaching staff went into the change room and said something like “Keep going, we’re in the game” they are completely clueless. The chance to change the plan (if they had one) was half time. Even a four year old child could tell that the game plan employed in the first half was a failure.
The saddest part though is that our coaching staff thought that we would be able to crash tackle our way to the New Zealand try line and force the world’s best backs to make simple handling errors under insanely long and high kicks.
So, in conclusion the real problem in my book, is the coaching staff’s inability to change the game plan when the shit has hit the fan. The result and the fact that the Boks played the second half exactly like the first is evidence that the coaching staff only have plan A in their locker and when it fails there’s no back-up. No alternative.
The good news, there are home games to come against the Wallabies and the All Blacks. If we somehow manage to get that great positive vibe back in time for the Aussie game we can win that and secure 2nd place in the Rugby Championship before going to Cape Town for the rematch with the AB’s. Traditionally we can’t beat New Zealand in Cape Town and that’s not what we should expect on 7th October.
What we should demand is an improvement; a better game plan; a better defensive plan; otherwise Allister Coetzee needs to admit he hasn’t got a clue what he is doing and should resign.