Over the Hill or Burnt out?

Mens wonder soms oor ons as ondersteuners se ongenaakbare verwagtinge van ons nasionale rugbyspanne. Ek lees vanoggend in die koerant dat daar in Suid-Afrika geen middelgrond is nie. Ons skree “Halleluja” as ons wen, en “Kruisig hom” as ons verloor.
Die reaksie op die naweek se gelykop uitslag was nie veel anders as om te verloor nie. Lees bietjie in teenstelling hiermee wat die Kiwi rugbybaas van sy land se onder-twintigspan se nederlaag in die Junior Wereldbeker sê:


New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew congratulated the team for their recent run of success.

“Five consecutive finals at the Junior World Championship is a wonderful achievement for New Zealand and we are proud of the boys,” he said.

“This has been a challenging campaign for them, and facing a strong South African side at home is never easy so we are feeling for (coach) Rob (Penney) and the team.

“We are proud of the record New Zealand holds at this tournament and the boys can hold their heads up for the gutsy performance they put in today.”

Te oordeel aan die meeste plaaslike reaksies na Saterdag se toets, klink dit of ons die reeks 0-3 verloor het, eerder as 2 – 0 gewen het, en dit teen die span wat net agter ons op die wereld-ranglys is. Ons het amper klaar vergeet van die Jong Bokkies se oorwinning.

At least no one is baying for the coach’s head yet, but Morné Steyn, in particular, has come in for some heavy flak. His place kicking, which won him his place in the side, and kept him there, have now deserted him for three tests in a row. Missing 12 out 22 kicks at goal is not acceptable at this level, and even more so for one of Steyn’s calibre. While his out of hand kicking (and the charge down which led to the English try) can, to a degree, be blamed on pressure on both him and Hougaard, we expect more from a man of his experience. Lambie, at flyhalf, can take over the kicking duties and inject much more life into our dangerous backline than Morné at the moment.

In my opinion, Steyn is jaded from being over-played. I would like to see the stats on the number of minutes he played this season. I cannot recall him being replaced once, and even one with his work ethic and team loyalty can only do so much before the mind and body starts rebelling.

To add to the controversy, one must remember that Toby Flood missed two penalties while injured. Had he been taken off earlier, we may indeed have lost this test.

Another point of criticism was the decision to kick for the line instead of goal. The explanation after the game that the conditions were not really suited to long-range penalties, holds true, and the resultant penalty vindicated Jean de Villiers’s decision.

I was disappointed that we did not make more of the time they were reduced to 14 players. Perhaps this confirms that we were less motivated than the English on the day. They had their pride at stake, we a whitewash in mind. Theirs was the more convincing driver.

For fun I thought to select a newcomer of the series award. As we had won, it could only be a Springbok, of course, and my choice fell on Marcel Coetzee, despite the claims of Eben Etzebeth.

But back to the young Bokkies.

The team I saw in Stellenbosch in their opening game against Ireland, versus the one who took the cup on Friday, bears no resemblance. Dawie Theron was talking about the mindset after that first loss. From devastated to delirious is a long road in just three or four games, but that wonderful four-try victory against England provided the perfect injection to go where angels fear to tread – All Black turf.

So, on Saturday, we are back in Super-15 territory. Hopefully, the Springboks will be managed well in their provincial sides to ensure that they are not burnt out by the time the Rugby Championship starts. I would hate to be the one who has to decide to replace an Etsebeth, De Villiers or Hougaard when my team is under pressure.

What would you do if Morné Steyn is the ace up your sleeve? And you know, and he knows, that he has to prove himself to stay in the Bok side?

Eish, then I appreciate my role as armchair critic much more than being the man in the hot seat.

Lekker week, ou Grote. Maak seker die kaggelhout is droog – hier kom ‘n koue winter.

PK the DJ

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