Benedict Chanakira wrote a piece earlier this year a which makes a lot of sense now, after a disastrous year for Springboks and South African rugby. In a time were everyone wants answers on all the questions, maybe it is time to focus on the basics first.
Here is the piece Benedict wrote…
Are England now a better rugby nation than South Africa? by Benedict Chanakira
Results in the last few weeks have further confirmed the answer to this question is yes. South Africa has regressed and more so in the junior sector than anywhere else. While the edge may be evident at under 18 level. The under 20 sides have become woeful. England have been the best team in the Junior World Cups for four years now. Winning two, finishing runners up in one and now competing for another title. Put simply, this England side has been in the last four finals. Sound structures. The reality is that, the systems Stuart Lancaster played a hand in putting are finally reaping the rewards.
England has one of the best, if not the best junior to senior pathways in World Rugby. No team in the world is able to brag about youngsters that come through the junior age groups and getting capped at senior level. New Zealand and Argentina would no doubt give them a push in this department. The Saxons came to South Africa and beat the SA ‘A’ side 2-0 in the recently concluded series. I won’t even dive into the side Eddie Jones is currently building. The alarm bells not quite ringing yet?
Dawie Theron has failed to select squads that will fully express and show, just how good South Africa is. In the initial squad, there was a surprising selection of just six players from the Eastern Province under 19 Currie Cup winning side. The tournament result has been dire and something has to change, unless, maybe South Africa is just not good enough anymore? Which is not true.
Lessons from the England tournament? The ability to combine experience, skill, size and execution. The England Under 20 side played better and the way they breezed past South Africa was bemusing and effortless.
South Africa can’t genuinely say they selected the best side for this tournament. Those young men, with all due respect are not the best South Africa can offer. The selection process needs to be reviewed. The omission of the under 19 Currie Cup top try scorer Leopards’ Zweli Silaule was a surprise. The lack of tighthead props who could scrum was shocking. One would realise South Africa’s scrum looked weaker than that of England, Argentina, Georgia and Ireland to say the least.
The all northern hemisphere final casts a dagger into the thought the southern hemisphere are still the kings. They are not at junior level anymore. The tide has turned as England and Ireland have proven. The gap in the juniors and seniors was evident to have closed even at the 2015 RWC.
The under 20 Six Nations allowed coaches to work out combinations, conditioning and see whether players would be up for it. Wales and England’s campaigns couldn’t have been more deceiving with the champions Wales getting dismantled by New Zealand and the English who lost four of their five games making it to the final.
It’s time the U20’s down south feature in some form of competition to prepare for the rigorous Junior World Cup. Next season the tournament will be hosted by the fast improving Georgians who are making strides in the game.
The players’ inability to execute simple passing in a short space when attacking with 3 against 1 was a sad sight. The days of outmuscling sides are long gone. This is not the Flintstone age. This is the Jetsons’ era and unless our players become upskilled and not over reliant on their size we will continue to see tournaments like this, were South Africa fall short constantly.
Are there any positives from this? More than two-thirds of the squad will be back next season as they will still be eligible. One would have thought that the victory of the Eastern Province under 19 would have sent a strong message about skill and size being combined. The EP side beat all that was before them and played with such intensity and hunger they sent shockwaves down the spines of their opponents.
Curwin Bosch, Jeremy Ward and Junior Pokomela to mention a few youngsters who showed they have what it takes to wear the Springboks jersey in the years to come. A mind-set shift is needed, or South Africa will make it a norm to perform poorly at the tournament.