2013, the Year of the Bok

December 30, 2012
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I have been mulling over a subject for my last column of 2012 for about a month now.

I did not want to venture into ‘My year in review’, or ‘My sporting moments of 2012’ as there are literally hundreds of them out there – so given the nostalgia here in the last couple of weeks I decided to focus on what 2013 might hold for us before the clock strikes 12 on the 31st of December.

There are three main areas I wanted to consider, our beloved Currie Cup, the Super Rugby competition (spit), and of course the Springboks.

Currie Cup

The grand old lady is still close to many rugby loving supporters’ hearts, and even though I predicted the death of the oldest domestic rivalry in the world, it seems that it will still top the interest in the minds of many South African supporters for years to come.

Even with a reduced team format (meaning less games) the Currie Cup managed to surpass the viewership numbers of 2011 which is quite a big statement.  Yes the stadium numbers are down but that seems to be the case for all competitions around the world.  My only criticism of the competition in 2012 was a semi-final round in a competitions structure of only 6 teams.  I would much prefer the cricket approach to play-off’s where the team that ends first after the round-robin matches are guaranteed a home final with the teams ending second and third going into a single match play-off to determine the second finalist.

As far as 2013 goes I believe the competition will be dominated by the Sharks and Western Province – not only for 2013 but probably for the next two to three years.  The introduction of youngsters by these two unions (by default or design) has not only put them in strong positions as far as experience at this level goes, but will also provide close to the required depth needed for Super Rugby.  It is interesting to note that these unions Super Rugby coaches have been in charge during the Currie Cup campaigns while unions like the Blue Bulls opted for management changes for the two competitions…

Super Rugby

When I first read about the 15-team conference system format a couple of years ago, my feeling was that the greed of administrators will be felt in the third season of the competition where players will either break down by the dozen, or interest in the competition will reach an ultimate low.

Well players have broken down by the dozen in 2012 already and I cannot see this getting any better next year.  Television numbers might be slightly up or on par with 2011 but stadium attendance specifically in Australia and New Zealand have been absolutely shocking.  Next year Australia will host the British and Irish Lions which means their interest in Super Rugby up and till June will be of little interest.  Already Australia will play between themselves (starting the season earlier than the other two countries) to accommodate the tour which I cannot see sparking much interest in South Africa and New Zealand from a viewing perspective.

The format is just wrong, it does not serve the interest of players or supporters but only the fatcat administrators who are completely out of touch with their most valuable assets or most important stakeholders.

Nevertheless, it will go ahead and from a South African perspective it will pretty much go the route of the Currie Cup with the Sharks and Stormers the two teams with the best chance to go all the way.  Many are saying ‘watch out for the Bulls’ but I actually think this is going to be a very ordinary year for the Pretoria franchise.  The Cheetahs will play pretty rugby without breaking the top 8 yet again and the less said about the Kings the better.

Springboks

The Springboks will have a season that will come close to, or perhaps even exceed the seasons of 1998 and 2009.  A bold statement?  Absolutely!  But I do not think supporters (or the media) quite appreciate the importance of a 100% Northern Hemisphere tour recently or the fact that our losses to New Zealand (specifically) was down to a team very much in transition and a coach who underestimated the demands of test rugby in his first season.

Meyer will be much wiser come 2013, I know this because he has admitted mistakes he made in 2012 and even went as far to say that certain players changed his philosophy about his own thinking of how the Boks should play, or who he should pick where.  Any coach (especially ones as experienced as Meyer) who is willing to be coached themselves on their thinking and philosophies are the ones history will remember.  The players who will welcome back the likes of Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis and possibly Juan Smith will be a year older, a year wiser, and 12 or so games more experienced.

The Aussies under Deans has one goal in 2013, and that is to beat the B&I Lions – fail in that, and they will see a new coach with new ideas and new philosophies.

As far as the All Blacks go, 2013 will be to them what 2010 was to the Springboks.  I cannot help but think that one or five players have overstayed their welcome but remains within the setup because of their ‘service’ to All Black rugby.  I also read with amusement in 2012 how the All Blacks was a team in transition (from 2011 and their Rugby World Cup steal, sorry win) having retained more than 80% of their players and a coach who has been with them since 2004…

Of course many will think it is a dangerous thing to write off the All Blacks but that is not what I am doing, they are the best team in the world for a reason and is likely to finish like that at the end of 2013 as-well – but the Boks will for my money will make up a lot of lost ground in 2013 and possibly surprise them too.

By this time next year, Boertjie will post a highlights package of the Boks in 2013 which Duiwel and the rest will save to their ‘best of the Boks’ collection for years to come!

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13 Comments

  1. avatar biltongbek says:
    December 30th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Currie Cup.

    I agree the sharks and western province are the likely teams to be top of the log next year.

    Hopefully though it will remain as our premier competition for a long time to come. I really do hope SARU (most importantly Jurie Roux) realises Super Rugby must be revamped to a shorter format, even if all the teams are kept.

    Super Rugby.
    Hopefully with the next contract negotiations SANZAR realises the damage it is doing to the SH test teams, perhaps even if they keep the 5 teams, they remove te conference system and go back to a single round robin which would reduce the competition by a month.

    Springboks.
    I seriously hoe you are right Morne, and that Meyer has learnt from this year and see a slightly different future for how we should play the game.

  2. avatar DavidS says:
    December 31st, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Except for 2009, in years where the SA teams traditionally do poorly in SR we do well in TRC/3N.

    Strange that.

    Also if one looks at Mallett, White, Kitch, De Villiers then traditionally in South Africa the second year of their tenure is the most successful and the third year the disaster.

    So if the form book and history dictate then Morne will be right. The question however is whether Heyneke will be able to overcome the third year blues that caused 1999, 2006 and 2010 to be wreckage for incumbent coaches.

  3. avatar DavidS says:
    December 31st, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I am however wondering whether the return of certain power players like Schalk Burger will have a significant impact on the Boks.

  4. avatar DavidS says:
    December 31st, 2012 at 9:38 am

    We lost three matches this year

    ONE to (an agreed weak) Australia away

    TWO to the virtually intact World Champion All Blacks

    All in all not bad for the first season in charge for a coach trying to rebuild a dynasty of senior players started in 2004 that ended post 2011 RWC.

  5. avatar Boertjie says:
    December 31st, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    JUAN SMITH
    12 September
    The 69 Test veteran has announced he will make the move to the northern hemisphere unless he gets an extremely lucrative offer from an SA team, which could keep him in Springbok contention.

  6. avatar out wide says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Reply to DavidS @ 9:38 am: Yes the Boks only lost 3 matches in 2012 but to describe the AB teams they lost to in Dunedin and Johannesburg as “virtually intact” might be papering over defects in the Bok side. In the games played against the Boks, some 30% of the RWC 2011 AB finalists were missing. No Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richard Kahui, SBW, Donald, Ellis and Ali Williams, Some, not all, big names in International rugby and without whom a good Boks side would surely be expected to win.

  7. avatar DavidS says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Not really

    The lost players were never that hot.

    Kaino? Donald? Kahui is like New Zealand’s versionj of Werner Greef, Ellis was never more than second choice, SBW was never a first choice player for Headmaster Henry and Ali Williams was already over the hill.

    By contrast for South Africa the personnel losses were much more serious. Smit, Steenkamp, Mtawarirra (partially), Matfield, Rossouw, Smit, Burger, Spies, Smith, Burger, Du Preez, James, Morne Steyn’s loss of form, Jacque Fourie, JP Pietersen (part of the season), Joe Pietersen…

    We could BUILD a world beating team with the personnel losses we suffered between 2011 and 2012.

    To suggest the poor personnel being replaced (you’ree not seriously suggesting Ellis, Kaino, Williams, Thorne and especially Steven Donald are first choice strating XV players for New Zealand surely?) is on a par with the losses in personnel the Boks suffered over the same period.

    The All Blacks kept their front row intact, their locks virtually intact, their back row empowered by injury retruns, their half back comination back to its best and midfield not weakened at all, whilst at wing they got new stars and at fullback too.

    Not a good argument.

    In summary

    South Africa lost a huge percentage of players many of whom would be first choice starters for any coach putting together a World’s Best XV whilst New Zealand lost maybe one star whom they didn’t rate and a small group of second and third string and has been players…

    BIG difference

  8. avatar DavidS says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Reply to Boertjie @ 2:47 pm:

    Goeie keuse. As hy verkeerdelik sou besluit het om aan te bly sou Bethlehem se domste histeries geraak het en al die pad Bloemfontein toe gery het om ‘n Hitler tantrum te gooi… en sy knie weer te breek sodat hy defnitief nie in Suid Afrika kon aanbly nie…

  9. avatar The Year of the Cheetah says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Wat n spul kak.

    SA sides will have a terrible 2013 in super rugby as we continue to kick against the trend of playing rugby with the ball

    You all seem to forget just how easily the chiefs won last year while our conference topping team stumbled from one 2-point win to the next with their inability to score tries.

    Our teams are simply not balanced enough. The good attacking sides lack defence and vice versa.

    The boks will pragmatically stumble along taking one step back for every one progressed. Expect burger and the other 2007 to return and stifle the s,all pockets of progress we have been able to make inour game.

    This is the start of a slide in SA rugby fortunes and its a nessesary one. We need to get shocked out of our complacency and overall laziness to evolve our game.

  10. avatar Boertjie says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Reply to The Year of the Cheetah @ 3:28 pm:

    Jy is dalk reg.
    Maar ek hoop jy is verkeerd.

  11. avatar Morné says:
    January 1st, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Reply to The Year of the Cheetah @ 3:28 pm:

    I suggest you go find a recent column Reds coach McKenzie wrote about ‘trends’ in rugby…

  12. avatar out wide says:
    January 2nd, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Reply to DavidS @ 10:52 am: David, it is New Year and I don’t want to argue with you but you maybe don’t know NZ rugby as well as you obviously know SA rugby. Kaino, for anyone who was at the RWC 2011 games, was on fire. He played all but 50 seconds of the 7 AB games, at 6ft 5 and 105kg was a fortress in defence and scored 4 tries and actually won the 2011 NZ player of the year. So at least somebody rates him? As for Thorn (not Thorne) he was and still is the hardman of NZ rugby and even at his late stage, you will be seeing him playing for an impressive looking Highlanders side this year. Ok maybe some of the other losses were not that dramatic and I do get your point.

    For me, as for others here, the Boks need to make a quantum leap and lose the kick and chase stuff, regain their ability to attack as well as defend and show the ability to adopt a plan B when they need to. Too much to ask for? Well, here’s hoping. The Bulls managed to lose their 10-man boring style and actually score the tries that won them titles. Why can’t the Boks follow suite?

  13. avatar DavidS says:
    January 3rd, 2013 at 11:50 am

    NZ cricket getting a running jumping leaping come to your Maker quantum fuckslap from the Proteas though…

    If only our rugby team coulkd say we’d never lost a series to NZ ever…

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