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Post Mortems and Previews

Felicitations

It is early days yet, but our athletes at the Paralympics are really doing us proud. In fact, for me it is a humbling experience to watch these wonderful people achieving great things despite the odds against them, while we, who often have so much more, show little appreciation for our blessings.

Expectations, Roles & Strategy
by Bobby Londt

AB de Villiers and Gary Kirsten

AB de Villiers and Gary Kirsten

That’s 2 similar defeats in a row. Maybe our expectations are a bit too high … after all, the England One day outfit is a different kettle of fish to its Test side. In recent times they comprehensively beat the Aussies, West Indies & Pakistan! In 2012 they played 16 ODI’s, of which 3 were either abandoned or had no result. They only lost one, which was the first game against the Proteas. In comparison, South Africa played 12 ODI’s, one of which was a no result, and we lost 4. 

 A possible area which is cause for concern is the way the Proteas keep reshuffling the batting order. Fundamentally, it’s not a bad idea if all the players are settled, experienced and comfortable with their position in the team. Where it fails, is when you introduce new, insecure or inexperienced players at this level.

For example, the role of a number 3 batsman is quite different to that of a number 6. Swopping your number 3 batsmen to 6 every second game unsettles them in their comfort zone in terms of their mental approach on how to play as the variables for preparation becomes wider and far more complex.

A number 3 batsman is more likely to face more pace bowling and a harder ball. The chances of the field being more attacking, allows for more margins to score boundaries. On the other hand a number 6 might find himself batting in the latter stages (30 overs plus) of the innings. The fielding team is far more conservative in terms of its strategy, the ball is softer and there is a greater likelihood of slow bowlers being brought on. The approach here might be one of picking the gaps as batsmen and “running” the scorecard for that period to keep it ticking over. 

So from that perspective, I think Kirsten and AB need to rethink that strategy around players like Elgar, du Plessis and even Duminy as well as AB himself. He is carrying a lot of responsibility. These players need more time to adjust and get comfortable in their primary roles as well as in their team roles.

The Proteas will do well to win the last game and I hope we do to take a bit more confidence into the T20 championship. But don’t expect any trophies yet – as a Test nation we are leading the pack but at the shorter form of the games we seem to have a lot of catching-up to do.

Springbok Safari
 
– by Paul Kruger

The two match tour to Australasia has a lot more at stake than just two tests in the Championship. We are busy building a new team, and the new inclusions in the team show that all is not yet cast in concrete.

It would be a huge mistake to underestimate the Aussies. They did not lose against palookas  – they lost against the current world champions. We also need to bear in mind that, in the game where we were “Brycegated”, we had all the possession, yet could not convert it into points. That was not the referee’s fault.

One thing that became very clear from the previous games under the stewardship of Meyer, is that changes are called for. Indications are that Ruan Pienaar will start at number 9, and his better scrumhalf service should impact positively on Morné Steyn. Hougaard as impact player on the wing has always been far more effective than when he started at scrumhalf.

Duane Vermeulen at number 8 is a must, given Meyer’s game plan. None of the reserve hookers were able to fulfil Bismarck’s role as fetcher, and this was one area where we failed the test in Mendoza. After Saturday’s Currie Cup matches, Meyer must be rueing the fact that he did not include Deon Fourie. The latter can now add scrumhalf to his CV as well!

I suspect that size counts against Fourie, as it does against Aplon and Lambie. While Kirchner did nothing wrong in the number 15 jersey, he did not add much on the attack. I would certainly consider Lambie against Australia.

Another area of concern for me is our centre combination. Both the current incumbents are brilliant individual players, but do not seem to gel into a combination where 1 + 1 = 3. If one looks at the opportunities De Villiers created for Jaque Fourie, helping the latter become a star, then I cannot help but think we must consider change here. I must admit that I do not have an answer to this one. There is no Danie Gerber or Jaque Fourie lurking in the wings, but Paul Jordaan, JP du Plessis and Jan Serfontein really gets me exited about the near future. And: can we really afford not to pick Francois Steyn?

The outcome of the match against Australia, and particularly the performance of the backline, will play a huge role in the selection of the side against the All Blacks. Conrad Smith is currently, in my humble opinion, without equal in world rugby, and with Nonu on his inside, we cannot afford a single lapse in concentration.

Maybe a last lesson from the weekend’s rugby: Nick Groom, the number 3 choice at scrumhalf in the WP, came on after Dewald Duvenhage made his first break in four years and promptly broke his leg in the process. Suddenly, all the potential that had been locked up (and no doubt, cropped up) came to the fore, and the result was a joy to behold. Well, for most of us, any way.

By Thursday, we should know what the team against the Wannabees will look like. I have no doubt that Heyneke has only the best interests of the team at heart, and really wish him and his whole entourage a very successful safari on that side of the planet.

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