Heyneke Meyer take a bow.


If you were going to tell me that South Africa would rack up 958 running meters against the best team in the world I would have laughed in your face.

If you were going to tell me that the pace and power of the South African attack would cause 31 missed tackles by New Zealand, I would have found that equally entertaining.

If you told me an expansive game by South Africa would be an invitation to New Zealand to counter from turnovers and errors I would have agreed with you.

In 2011 Pieter de Villiers was called in front of the South African Sports committee in lieu of the Rugby world Cup preparation, during the interview he was asked why South Africa played so much within themselves and why did they not embrace a holistic approach to rugby.

Pieter de Villiers answered with a simple “They have a fear of failure”

In my view fear of failure has plagued South African rugby for some time. I fondly remember a game at Murray field during 1998 when Bill Mclaren described the running of Pieter “Slap Chips” Rossouw akin to that of a Gazelle on the African plains.

During that same out bound tour, South Africa put such a hiding on the French in Paris that the local patrons booed their own team off the field and gave the South Africans a standing ovation.

Prior to the isolation era Springbok rugby reigned supreme, and it was largely due to the natural physique and the lifestyle attributed to Afrikaners at the time.

Professional rugby has negated the natural physical advantage South Africa has had for so long, with professional rugby players now having the best facilities, equipment, coaches, fitness and strength instructors at their disposal.

The need for more intelligent play, more possession and guile in attack has now become a pre requisite for teams to triumph on the international stage.

For too long I have listened to South African supporters saying we do not have the skills to play expansive rugby, for far too long we have sold ourselves short in the skills department.

Expansive rugby does not mean you move away from your core strengths, our core strengths will always be the mainstay of any professional rugby team, that is a given.

However, it is the mind set that needs changing.

Compare a defensive strategy based game plan to that of a lab rat in a controlled environment where he runs through a maize to find a piece of cheese. It is inevitable that the rat will find the cheese, no matter how long it takes or how challenged he is in the intelligence department.

Having teams launch wave after wave of attack, affording them the opportunity to probe your defensive line relentlessly for 80 minutes will eventually result in a defensive breach.

It isn’t rocket science to understand that.

Yes, we lost the test this weekend, however the mind set of going for gold meant that the shackles have been broken, the fear of failure was suppressed and rather than see a team intent on playing a kick and chase strategy and a defensive setup, South Africa ran the ball, for almost 1000 meters, a statistic in itself that almost defies belief.

Yes there were mistakes, it is inevitable that when you have only played expansive rugby for four months, that you would not be as polished as you will be after doing it for 10 years. But the important issue here is that the change came.

The importance of this mind shift cannot and should not be underestimated, we played rugby, positively and adventurous beautiful rugby.

You may be critical and look at all the negatives, the fact that we ran out of puff in the last quarter, the fact that we conceded too many turn overs, the fact that we missed so many tackles, the fact that our line out went to shambles in the last 20 minutes.

But what you cannot ignore, is the absolute delight the game has brought to your senses, the mistakes can be corrected, the techniques can be worked on, our defensive system is not yet set up to scramble on the counter and will need restructuring.

Heyneke Meyer has shown us what we can do, he has shown us that we do indeed have ample skills in the team to run tries in from deep or close against the best team in the world, but most important, he now needs to carry this forward.

There is no stepping back from this methodology, he has a responsibility to continue the growth of this team, a few personnel changes will improve those odds.

Ultimately if we can push the All Blacks this hard, the rest of the world must be quivering in their boots.

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  1. Nigel Owens have this to say after the game:

    “That was the greatest game of rugby I have ever had the privilege to referee. Huge credit to both teams for showing what rugby is all about. Thank you all too for your kind messages. Really does mean a lot. “

  2. @biltongbek:

    We’ve beaten them before… and I said this from the start… starting running willy-nilly and it plays into the AB’s hands…

    Exactly what happened in the end… game opened up and Boks fell prey…

  3. @bryce_in_oz: Yes, but our old method has not worked since 2010.

    Don’t look at this loss in isolation, look at what Meyer is trying to achieve, he realises we need more ammo to beat the All Blacks, and the only way is to evolve, we have been doing this for only 4 months.

    And the reason why we lost the test match was not because we ran willy nilly.

    Three key moments in the game.

    1. 9 seconds on the clock to halftime, Fourie du Preez clears the ball to morne Steyn who kicks into touch, All Blacks score from the line out.

    Had Fourie du Preez set up another ruck, he could have waited out the 9 seconds until the hooter and kicked out himself.

    2. Kirchner runs from his twenty two with no support behind him, and gets turned over, try NZ, his predictability cost us.

    3. Kirchner receives a ball from Morne Steyn after it has been passed back into our 22, from deep he kicks out directly into touch, AB’s get a line out deep in our 22 and scores.

    None of those errors was because of our wide attack, it was simple decision making errors and poor execution of line kicks.

  4. Glad you raised this Biltong, there were some skills to savour with players prepared to back themselves and as you remind us showing they have lost their fear of failure. Vermuelen’s linebreak and perfect long pass to put Habana away and then Francois Louw’s round the corner offload to put him away again. Kolisi preventing Nonu from scoring under the poles. Special moments.

  5. Playing pretty is more important than winning.

    That mindset is a sickness that plagues SA rugby and it is fully on display in this article.

  6. On the fact that the Boks instead of the AB’s ran out of puff and seemed to be feeling the altitude in the last quarter, Steve Hansen had an interesting comment after the game on the tv feed aired in NZ. He felt that the AB’s reserves that came on then had shown up the Boks reserves and suggested that their subs were better than the Boks reserves.

  7. @Timeo: It may be seen only as pretty rugby by you.

    but you are far from correct when you consider it only as pretty rugby.

    It is effective rugby, do you want us to continue in the same vain as the past two decades and accept mediocrity?

  8. I know there are a lot of Willem Alberts fans on here, but I’d like to see the likes of Kolisi and Jaco Kriel getting more opportunities in the next 12 months.

    Neither is a wrecking ball in the Coetzee, Alberts or Potgieter mold, but I think gain more yards on the firmer SH fields because they have pace and that essential bit of footwork that allows the attacker to wrongfoot defenders and thus often winning more yards than the really big guys who often allow defenders to size them up. Kolisi and Kriel are pretty strong too!

    On the sifter NH fields I would still probably go with Alberts though.

  9. Bilton I think most of us agree that only a balanced game will make the Boks beat the kiwis.

    The problem is that the Bulls Way has for many years been misunderstood to mean aimless kicking and bulldozing when in fact the Bulls were a free-scoring team sance 2007 playing a very balanced game.

    Yet school teachers interpreted that to win means you pick 8 fat guys to apply pressure and use your backline to chase kicks.

    Heyneke no doubt is embracing a more balanced approach for the Boks, however I think we miss the point with the selection of some players.


    This is one of the best articles in the 8
    years of RW’s existence.
    I cannot agree more.
    As you pointed out the Golden Mallett Year:
    beating the Frogs 52-10.
    Here’s hoping HM carries on in this way.

  11. @Brendon: Brendan, the bulls plan works against teams that cannot physically front up to them.

    You can go through the super Xv archives and check, every time the Bulls met a team that fronted up physically they suffered.

    That is why our physical game has not worked against New Zealand and Australia in the last years of PDV’s tenure.

    We are playing catch up with the all Blacks, and the Bulls game plan has not worked against them since 2009.

    Graham Henry assessed what went wrong against SA in 2009, he realised he needed wings that has aerial skills, he dropped rokocoko, dropped sivivatu and went for a new age wing.

    That completely negated our kick and chase.

    Then henry (as much as he criticised our kicking game) devised one for New Zealand, they now kick tactically better than us, their aerial prowess outshone us on the weekend.

    so they took two of our strengths and turned it around.

    They do these things because it is what is best for NZ rugby, why are we so proud that we cannot admit when we need to learn something new?

  12. @biltongbek:

    I agree 100%.

    We need to ask that question. Best part is we dont even need to find something revolutionary or ‘new’ – just do what we do well, and not just parts of it.

    I would love for example to know how much time the average SA school/varsity etc team uses per week to train the scrum and the line-out and the driving maul as opposed to everything else?

    And boy once that maul folds there is no alternative plan.

    Scotland last year and Argie this year scored against us with clever line-out play. However the Boks have only one line-out weapon, and on Saturday she was stopped dead!

    Imagine SA tries something new come line-out time? The world will now know what hits them!

  13. @bryce_in_oz:

    Its not about meters you run. Not in the slightest.

    For me its abou the amount of opportiunties you create to score tries, not penalties.

    In this instance the Reds were masters a few years back. Hell they created chance after chance after chance.

    Boks on Saturday much better. Now we just need players with the skills to convert those chances, as the Kiwis have in abundance.

  14. I am willing to bet goo money that if the average Saffa forward can just learn to draw his man and pass instead off making contact we will score at least one extra try per game.

  15. @bryce_in_oz: Bryce, I am not concerned here about the number of meters ran, but the fact that we did run, we did not play with a defensive mindset, we played to win.

    there are many different ways you can run 1000 meters, Australia ran their meters without the foundation being laid by their forwards, hence their running was ineffectual and they often found the ball carrier isolated as the defence was never put under pressure.

    I am not advocating running helter skelter like Australia had been doing in the beginning of the RC, I am advocating a ball in hand approach and not a defensive game plan.

    Many ways to skin the same cat.

  16. @Morné: Talking about set phases, Etzebeth got unnerved by Owens when he blew him for crossing the 5 meter line in the front of the line out, he never took another ball there the entire match.

    I was thinking at the time, someone must have tweeted something into his ear prior to the game.

    Also Coenie at tight head concerns me.

  17. Plenty of masturbation and self fellation with 20/20 blindness here… because boys think they do not deserve girls… certain fans going… “Gee, let’s copy the All Black playbook, because we’re too kak to develop our own playing style.” The fact that it then gets colored in as “effective” is laughable. As a matter of interest ANY team that gets fronted up physically does not automatically get slaugheterd or beat the Bulls. I would do well to remind a certain poster of a scoreline of 74-14 which started with WP crushing a Bulls scrum and Luke Watson physically fronting up to Bulls loose forwards… while the Stormers braggardly high fived themselves for “fronting up” the Bulls scored 74 points…

    There is a serious need for myth busting here. In CC and SR our best team is the Bulls. There is a reason for that. The kick and chase myth is something invented in Australia and like sheep followed by the sheeple masquerading as rugby commentators.


    I find it hilarious that All Black rugby is described as “effective” with the implication we must copy it…

  18. @DavidS: Who said anything about copying the All Blacks?

    You Sir, strike me as one of those who will stick to the Bulls game plan when we play on 100 athmospheric pressure planets.

    a place where the ball doesn’t even bounce.

    Talk about being blind.

  19. Have you guys ever considered that you may have the concepts of cause and effect all mixed up?

    The Boks normally play great running rugby against 2nd tier teams. The reason is, that they have more talent on the field than the opponents and can thus afford to play that way. Running rugby is not the reason, it’s the result of the talent surplus and so is the big win.

    The All Blacks have a talent surplus on the field for almost every game they play, including whenever they play the Boks. The Boks have talent surpluses against most teams, except NZ, Aus and perhaps England and France occasionally.

    For any country to change the make-up of their respective talent pools in any meaningful way is exceedingly difficult over the long term and impossible over the short term.

    Thus, if SA aims to beat the ABs more often than they did in the last decades, they will have to play a style that enables a team of lesser talent to gain parity with a team of more talent.

    The question is then, just what that style should be.

    On the local scene we have the Sharks and the Stormers and the Bulls, all fishing in the same talent pool and whereas the Sharks and the Stormers have more money than the Bulls, it follows that they should most of the time, have more talent ALSO. At least this has been evident FOR the Sharks in recent years.

    Yet the Bulls maintain parity or often outperform the other two, because they have a style of play that enables teams of lesser or equal talent to outperform their opponents.

    Sometimes the talent deficit is just too big and then they lose. Not because of the game-plan, but rather because of the talent deficit. Playing any other way would probably have caused them bigger losses in those cases.

    It is also no coincidence that teams who often face opponents of superior talent, such as Italy or Argentina tend to adopt conservative game-plans in an attempt to minimize the losing margins.

    If you cannot figure out the rest for yourselves, I’ll have to give up.