A Fitting End

The demolition job on France on Saturday summed up where the Springboks currently are. Much has been said about the game itself, so I will focus on a few aspects not related directly to the game.

The men in green and gold are a well-disciplined side, willing to walk the extra mile for the team. Players like De Villiers, Habana, Vermeulen and Alberts have a tough season behind them, yet gave all in a last ditch effort to achieve the team goal. Etzebeth was nearly in tears when he was forced to leave the pitch after sixteen minutes.

Another indicator of the mental growth this team has undergone was their acceptance of poor TV referee decisions and yet another deplorable playing surface which neutralised their scrummaging advantage. A lot of the praise must go to Jean de Villiers who certainly surprised me – I was sceptical when he was first appointed. The fact that he will retain this position next year confirms the faith the coach has in him.

To rephrase the Johnny Nash song ever so slightly – there are more answers than questions after the end of year tour of the Springboks.

Coenie Oosthuysen proved that he and Lourens Adriaanse will be able to step in for Jannie du Plessis should the need arise. Quite frankly, Coenie may even make the starting berth his own, given his massive all-round contribution, including tackles and try-scoring ability.

Willie le Roux is die antwoord op heelagter – hy verskaf die vonk wat die potensiaal van die ander begaafde agterspelers aan die brand steek, en sy taktiese skopwerk is uitstekend.

Dit is juis iets wat Heyneke gister uitgelig het as fokus vir die Bokke vorentoe, dus kan mens verwag dat dit ook ‘n groot rol gaan speel in sy toekomstige spankeuses.

Heyneke pointed out yesterday that the slower pitches in Europe suited our big loose forwards better than the faster local tracks. I was actually thinking about the indignation expressed by many when Meyer refused to select Brüssow, and wondered how those critics feel about it now. This raises the question whether we should not have alternatives for local conditions?

Which brings me to the little matter called depth in the squad.

The All Blacks can, on any given weekend, select two world class squads. I know that Heyneke said that as long as we try and chase them, we will be followers, but in their heart-wrenching match against Ireland yesterday, their number three flyhalf came on as substitute  and rang rings around the dogged Irish defence.

In Springbok land, we are now in a position where most positions have incumbents worthy of their place, with only the scrumhalf and lock replacements still a problem. Pienaar’s passing, on most occasions, was slightly faster on Saturday, and he made one or two commendable tactical kicks, but he is not the dominant force one expects after more than 50 tests.

After Etzebeth went off, we lost a number of lineouts. Bakkies was ferocious in the loose, but is he the answer where it matters – in the lineouts? There was one embarrassing lineout where all the jumpers ran forward, and Bismarck threw the ball to no-one at the back.

When Irish Eyes are Crying

I am an unashamed admirer of all things Irish, and yesterday’s cruel result against the All Blacks hurt me almost as much as it did them. When last did we see a match where pure passion inspired a team to play so far above their ability?

The try, one minute and 38 seconds after the final whistle should have blown, is testimony to the never-say-die spirit of the Kiwis. It was, as one commentator in the NZ Herald put it this morning, fate, as always, conspiring against Ireland. And: No one does heartbreak like Ireland. Too cruel. Too cruel. This didn’t really happen did it? New Zealand, 22-17 down with time up on the clock, won.

Even a wee dram of Tullamore Dew did little to soften the pain.

Flouteas Flount Opportunity

Why do I get this recurring nightmare that there is a click of untouchables in the Protea squad for whom the best interests of the side is less important than their own ideals?

Looking at the world class bowling line-up, and how they decimated the Pakistan top order, this game should have been a walk in the park, yet, again, we allowed the tailenders to score freely, and, barring Kallis and Duminy, failed to deliver on the batting front. AB de Villiers is probably the biggest concern, but Smith needs to do more as a batsman, as he no longer has the captaincy duties to contend with as well.

Mens moet maar seker aanvaar dat hulle tradisioneel swak vaar in die eerste wedstryd. Of moet mens? Wat is fout?

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