I just could not let this pearl of a column from JJ Harmse pass by…
South African rugby fans, especially those who support the one team from the big five that have not won any big trophies in the last decade, will have to grow up very fast.
It was clear from comments made by those fans on blogs and forums like this (complimented by their local scribes down behind the wine curtain), after the welcome appointment of Heyneke Meyer as Springbok coach, that the style of play and not the result is still more important to them.
Grow up people. Professional sport is about one thing and one thing only – winning!
In tournament golf, you can hit the most spectacular drives and chip shots, but if they don’t add up after two rounds, you don’t play on the weekend.
In professional sport it is the result that matters most. Which is why, in rugby, Meyer was such a popular choice to replace Peter de Villiers.
The new Bok chief learned something very important in his early years as a professional coach. It is not how you play that matters, it is the result that will determine your fate.
He adapted with spectacular results.
He looked at the laws of the game at the time, adapted a game plan that suited his players and complimented the laws and what happened?
Five consecutive Currie Cup finals (won three, drew one and lost one) and to prove the durability of his game plan, three consecutive semi-finals in Super Rugby, with the last one resulting in that final that made the Bulls the first South African side to win a Super Rugby title.
The basis of that game plan was to play only in the opponents half. Meyer had in Derick Hougaard and Morné Steyn two flyhalves who could (and did) kick the ball 60 metres.
This allowed the Bulls to stay in their opponents’ half, most of the time 30, 40 metres from the opposing tryline, with their opponents often having a lineout throw following a Bulls kick.
The opponents had to throw the ball into a lineout contested by Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and/or Pedrie Wannenburg.
The pressure never ceased and from resulting penalties or turnovers, Hougaard or Steyn would convert the pressure into points.
Simple, effective. Not pretty, but winning rugby.
When the laws changed at the end of 2007, with no passing back into your 22 metre area, Meyer and his Bulls adapted their kicking patterns and again became the top team in the Southern Hemisphere in 2009 and 2010.
In both years they started to kick up-and-unders, forcing opponents, thanks to brilliant chasing lines and pressure, to commit errors and concede penalties. Again, Steyn was there to punish.
They also ran when the numbers justified it and scored more tries than any other team.
So what was the first thing Meyer had to do when introduced to media in Cape Town upon his appointment?
Defend his success with the Bulls, and was expected to promise that the Boks will not play like the Bulls!
What bull was that?
The sole reason Meyer was appointed in the first place was because his team played a winning style for a long time. Predicable at times, yes, but executed so well that they won three Super Rugby titles in five years.
Why on earth now expect Meyer to play or approach the game differently?
He has proven that he is willing and able to adapt the way his team plays. He has proven that winning breeds a culture of excellence like nothing else.
Everyone has his or her own opinion and thanks for reading mine, but to expect Meyer to change his ways to a playing style that failed to win anything for 10 years, is arrogant.
Not to talk about short-sighted, but then, how are you expected to have vision when you have your head in the sand like an ostrich?
Talking about vision, well done to the Varsity Cup organisers. This year we will see another extension of the competition, following the introduction of the Varsity Shield in 2011.
The Young Guns, who will contest their own Under-20 tournament within the Cup, will bring another dimension to the game.
It will also introduce another batch of South African youngsters to the rugby public.
Also, can you imagine the delight of national Under-20 coach Dawie Theron, who will have an early look-in at the talent available at that level of competitive play.
Rugby will again be the winner and again this is a product of the Varsity Cup brains trust.
Well done guys!