Our very own Brendon Shields, who is under a self-imposed ban from blogging till now, shares his views on how we should re-shape and re-think how we use the whole team.
by Brendon Shields
I made a pledge to not blog again until such a time that the Springboks use 15 guys to play rugby and not just 10. I got frustrated talking to guys who seemed hell-bent on defending the way we play as if we can as a nation never aspire to be better than the best. I got tired and annoyed at hearing how teams like the Stormers are suddenly the benchmark by which SA rugby hopes to beat all-comers. “The game is today about defence” and “you cannot take chances at test level” are but some of the logic sprouted on blogs and social networks. The whole affair just became too depressing.
But yesterday’s loss will naturally make us re-think our approach to the game from schools level right up to the Boks. I think most rugby people now realise that we have to embrace 22 man, 90 minute TOTAL rugby if we wish to be #1 again. No longer can we be a great defending side without being a great attacking one also. And no longer can we introduce a player with 5 minutes to go because we wanted to give him a run?
The key for me is our need to not only re-invent our approach to selection but to also redefine our goals as a rugby playing nation. We have some problems and we need some solutions. My first idea is to re-think the matchday 22 and it will be great if fellow bloggers can debate this and also come up with ideas in other aspects of the game.
I suggest we adopt and American football approach to our bench whereby you have a ‘defence’ and an ‘offence’ and you should be able to switch between the two. If it’s a wet day in Dublin and we know its going to be a slog with a 9-6 scoreline then we start with our defensive team and introduce our attack as the game goes on (and if circumstances allows us to do so). Most days we start with our best attacking team and we go gung-ho for 60 minutes and do everything in our power to build a lead. In the last 20 minutes we introduce our ‘defence-minded’ bench and we close out the game.
We should select player who will never have an off day on attack – like an Israel Dagg or a Conrad Smith. But on the day when these players leak too many points then we introduce our defensive players earlier.
This approach will allow us to select our experienced (but slower) players on the bench. For example I believe if we truly want to go out and play attacking rugby we need to start with a Paul Jordaan or a Juan De Jong at 13 and have a Jean De Villiers on the bench. Similarly we need to start with a Keegan Daniel and have a Duane Vermeulen on the bench. I bet there is nothing worse than to trail a team by 15 points only for them to introduce 500 caps in the last 20 minutes. We have some great experienced players from an overtly defence-minded era and I think we can utilise this not by having them start but by having them consolidate.
For too long now have we seen a bench badly used or not used at all. My point is that the selection for the bench is already wrong as we seem to only have AN Other should our first player get injured. We select the wrong players on the bench because our overall strategy is never to fight a battle with 22 men. If we are going to re-invent rugby, start by calling a team a XXII and not an XV. Once we get the 22 man selection right then our next goal is to find that perfect balance between defence and attack (which in SA only the Sharks seem to possess right now).