Oom Rugby has been giving us so many insights on the game, so Benedict Chanakira decided to catch up with him and get to know the man known to us only as Oom Rugby.
Who does Oom Rugby support?
Springboks and Cheetahs of course! Even though true love can be difficult sometimes hey.
Why is there a hidden Identity? You are like a super hero who is known by a few people. Will the fans ever know you?
I prefer to keep to myself and stay out of the spotlight. I enjoy to talk rugby on Twitter and that is where I learn the most.
I am just what we can call a “rugby academic” so sometimes I worry I shoot off my mouth to real coaches and real people working with players in real situations every day, so it is better for me to just stay anonymous. Plus, there are people in rugby who know me so I will prefer if they don’t know what is my “alter-ego”!
What is the forecast like with the Springbok season?
It will be a very difficult season for the fans and the media to judge correctly. Boks will build from the ground up and start with defense, so maybe we will be perceived as being “boring” even though it is just the start of a long process. We will all say, “Did we get better? Are the Boks on an upward curve?”. It will be hard to tell – the only way to judge fairly will be on our defense, our set piece (including re-starts and exits), our breakdown work and the spirit of the group being willing to get up and making another tackle for each other.
These are some of the non-negotiables I will personally be satisfied with and then be willing to see how it evolve from there. You know Ben, I have seen how little time even Super rugby coaches has with players – there is so many hundreds of bases to cover from fitness to lineout calls to scrums to mauls to attack patterns to recovery to video work to contact technique etc.
They will say “Ok this afternoon we will have 7 minutes for breakdown work, then 6 minutes for ball placement” and they time it and they stick to it!
So, a Bok coach has even LESS time. What will you focus on? The truth is you must decide what things you will NOT focus on. It is just the way it is.
I expect Allister to focus on defense as the foundation to start building. It is also the foundation of attack, and of course it is the foundation of the team spirit.
If he is a smart man he will employ many Lions players in the “spine” of the team because then he gets a effective “ready-made” attack!
Which player/s do you look forward to seeing most in 2017? Why?
I have always been a big Elton Jantjes fan and critic. It is a compliment to a player to hold him to the ultimate standard of Test rugby because that means you think he is capable. Elton has poor game management and defense – that is a fact. Last year and this year, he has shown willingness to learn and improve and he did.
I hear they been working hard with him at the Lions and I think he is at the point where he is becoming a Test 10. We all know how he can bring the attack to life – his ability to play
flat and late is the most wonderful thing and not many guys can do it. We just want to see him be able to kick the Boks out of trouble, or play tactical chess when the opposition
is putting on the pressure. I look forward to seeing how he does this year and I hope Allister creates structures and options around him that bring the best out of him.
Otherwise I want to see if Malcolm Marx can throw safely, I want to see a genuine blindside stick up his hand, and I want us to develop a settled back three.
Are we as fans of the game, too harsh on Allister and his management?
No, we are not. In the retrospect, we must question Allister’s understanding of the fine margins, excellence and high performance required at Test level. When he took
the job he was happy to work with the junior staff that was forced on him. That was a massive alarm bell. You will not agree to build a bridge with some junior engineers if you know
how technically difficult it is and how precise you must be. Well I hope he understands now! We were patient in the beginning because it takes 3 years to build a team (ask Johan Ackerman).
We quickly saw that Allister was in very deep, NOW. He is a fantastic guy and the players love him but he needs to bring in a hard edge with himself to find that extra 2% that determine 3rd place
on the rugby rankings or 7th place. Never mind 1st place! I want him to succeed but if there is no clear direction or improvement then we must look elsewhere. We must question
the people who appoint the coaches too. They chase away our intellectual capital and do not seem to understand either, that the modern Test game is won or lost by – for instance – whether
a guy gets technically low enough at a ruck to get quick ball and set up a try. We are talking a matter of millimeters, but our administrators still think it’s a yards game.
What has been your favorite match of 2017?
I won’t say it was nice to watch because it was frightening but Crusaders against Highlanders was incredible. New Zealand has taken defence, technical execution and tactical kicking to
another level and you just have to appreciate it.
What is your ideal Springbok 23?
This is always a lekker game to play! Ok no injuries or conditioning questions or overseas limits here is my XV:
- Beast (I want experience, I don’t care about anything else!)
- Bismarck (Dominates in the tight, and lineouts is most important aspect of play.)
- Marcel van der Merwe (A specialist. Playing great in France)
- Eben Etzebeth
- Pieter-Steph du Toit
- Jaco Kriel (I want speed to the ball)
- Franco Mostert (I need a physical and fast big guy. Our third lock)
- Warren Whitely (I want to play a high tempo game)
- Ross Cronje (Calm, good decisions. And combination between 9 & 10 is crucial)
- Elton Jantjes (On attack he makes the players around him look good. Simple as that)
- Sbu Nkosi (Every coach has a bolter! And Sbu is a future star – Physical, fast and skillful)
- Frans Steyn (my 12 must be a ball carrier, passer or kicking threat)
- Lukhanyo Am (Physical, good defence and good on attack)
- Ruan Combrinck (Good counter attack, physical and good kick too)
- Willie Le Roux (He was a superstar who carried the Boks for two years don’t forget. Give him the right structures and let him shine.)
If you were to fix South African rugby, what would you fix first?
Simply, coaches. Train more coaches, give them more support, give them pathways, train more specialist coaches. Monitor them, scout for more, improve them, build a ladder of thousands of hungry, technical coaches from primary schools all the way up to the Boks.
Thanks for your time Oom!
It is a pleasure! Always great to talk rugby!