Whilst we celebrate the Springboks going through to the semi-finals, do they have what it takes to go all the way to win the Rugby World Cup 2019? Based on their recent performances compared to that of the All Blacks and England, it would seem a tall order according to Myan Subrayan.
Springbok fans were frustrated at the excessive use of the box-kick by scrumhalf, Faf de Klerk and confused when he was awarded the Man of the Match against Japan. In listening to their concerns and reading their comments on social media, it would seem what they are calling for is some variety in their team’s game plan.
The predictability of the Springboks game plan is what they say is cause for much of their frustration i.e. playing off 9, not playing wide channels (which neutralises the explosive speed/talent of their wingers making them unemployed and often searching for work in midfield), constantly carrying the ball into contact, seldom off-loading and shifting the contact point, putting up uncontestable kicks for their chasers and off course excessive use of the box-kick. Bok fans say that opposition teams know these tactics all too well, which could make it quite easy for them to counter it. Therefore, breaking from their traditional playing pattern would seem the sure bet to enhancing Bok chances of success.
Watching their team constantly dish up the same menu game after game is frustrating for Bok fans. Especially considering that rugby has evolved so much, (especially the rules). Despite this, it would seem that Springbok rugby has chosen to stay rooted in the ‘dark ages’ by not transforming their archaic playing style. Even emerging nations like Japan have embraced the exciting ‘running rugby’ style that shows up the Bok style to be a tad bit boring to watch. It’s not that Springbok rugby is short of talent, as there is a wealth of it available. Consider the emerging talents of the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, RG Snyman, S’busiso Nkosi.
There’s no doubt that the All Blacks set the benchmark in world rugby by continuously improving their game plan. Hence, they are unpredictable and at the same time have the ability to adapt and change it, even during a match when they see it is not working for them. At this RWC they raised the bar by including two playmakers in their starting-15 (Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett). This brings in a whole new dynamic that demands a higher level of skill from their back line and forwards. The evidence was clearly on display in their demolition of Ireland in quarter-final 2.
It is these ‘almost flawless’ performances from the All Blacks and England’s victory over Australia that make Bok fans nervous – urging Coach Rassie Erasmus to move away from the “same ole same” and to shuffle his deck to produce something fresh. To not only surprise but blow away the upcoming opposition. Could it be that the Bok fans are right and Coach Rassie needs to employ some, “Variety is the Spice of Life”?
In saying all of this let us go to the “’pudding”, the statistics, which we know don’t lie. Quite ironically, the statistics paint an altogether different picture. Surprisingly despite their “boring style’, the Springboks currently lead the total tries scored at 30 to the All Blacks 29 and points scored with 211 to the All Blacks 203. Could it be that Bok fans are missing something that the wily, clever Coach Rassie Erasmus knows? Could it be that from his time at Munster and Guinness PRO12 Rugby he knows what is required to win RWC 2019? Based on the stats it would most likely not be grounds for any change of game plan for the Springboks but rather an endorsement for them to stick to the ‘same ole same ole”!
*Myan Subrayan is now based in New Zealand and can be followed on social media or www.MyanSubrayan.nz