But in a same breath we also want to know why our beloved Springbok is so sick.
Yes it is the coaching, yes it is the administration, yes it is the player drain, yes it is our structures, yes it is all that things. But today I wanted to focus on another reason that maybe have even a worse consequence for our rugby going forward, and that is the poor technique and “small skills” of our players.
In the first 20 minutes of the game I find six quick examples for us to look at.
Above we see this poor clean by Rohan as the first arrival after Francois Venter make a break. Rohan had time and was in a perfect position to drive low over the ball or to seal it quickly. But instead we can see him with a very high body position engaging with the man and not focusing on where the ball is.
If Rohan simply stay low and seal then the Boks can have quick ball and put Wales defence on the back foot. And the Boks will not need to use the extra men Carr and Ulengo to come in and help.
Next example is Pieter-Steph going into contact high and with no leg drive or positioning. The Wales hooker Owens will get low, drive up with his hand behind Pieter-Steph’s knee and take him back. But in a contact situation the carrier must dictate the terms!
Pieter-Steph don’t necessarily have to get over the gainline but he must dominate the collision. If he do that, then he have options. He can offload, or go to ground successfully, or stay on his feet, etc. But now the Boks must shift from attack to ruck management as Pieter-Steph go backwards.
Above we see a small problem of technique as Nizaam attack the ruck. He is actually in a excellent position as we can see he have prime position over the ball. But can you see the problem? Look closer. The excellent 8th man Moriarty will easily clean Nizaam away even though he should not be able to, simply because Nizaam’s feet is too close together.
If he spread his feet wide apart and get low and solid over the ball there is no way they will move him. And so Wales will get clean ball for their next phase and the whole Bok defence must scramble.
Next is a example of a very poor tackle by Lood. Will you believe me if I tell you that the tighthead prop Francis receive a hospital pass from Biggar? In other words, Lood had time to line him up and hit him hard. Francis could not evade. But look at Lood going past him! His arm is around Francis and it look like he is trying to steal his wallet from his back pocket.
It was a gold opportunity for Lood to come in low leading with the shoulder and a big leg drive to smash Francis back and put the Boks on the advantage.
I don’t want to pick on Rohan – this was just the next thing that come up. Above we can see a good example of how players can let a system down. Biggar is taking the ball up to the Bok defence line. It is a 4 on 3 for Wales so the Boks will (correctly) try to push them to the touchline. But even schoolboys know that when you drift you never leave your man until he have passed the ball… A drifting defender must stay inside his man at all times. We can see that Rohan start to move off Biggar and onto the senter Williams. Biggar seal it with a little dummy and then take the lovely gap on offer.
The final example is this failed clearance by Ruan Combrinck. He had time to kick the ball out but he did not. And he must not just kick it out, he must kick it into the stands so that Wales can not take a quick throw. He must know that defending teams is very vulnerable in broken play situations like this so it is very important that he execute correctly. But unfortunately Ruan will kick the ball to Halfpenny, who break up the middle and make a lot of meters. Next phase the scrambling Boks gives away a penalty at the ruck.
I am sorry if this article come across like a mother-in-law who continually moan at us about everything. I don’t want to pick on guys and it is not always fair to sit in a comfortable chair and judge what players does in a heat of a moment. But my point is that all the examples we see above is not things that a national coach must (or have the time to) sort out. It is problems of basic technical execution that we expect from the modern rugby player.
So yes, our rugby has many issues, and Allister unfortunately did not do a good job. But we must also pay attention to the way our rugby players is falling behind the technical abilities of other nations.
This is now where Test matches is won and lost. It is in these tiny margins that we fail or succeed. For many years Bok rugby derive its success from our big talent pool and our physicality, but those days are over. The playing field is level. In the tight trench of modern test rugby the team who executes better will win.
Merry Christmas guys and have a lekker holiday.