Jan de Koning's Springbok report card
OPINION: The big question, as we approach the end of another year, is: ‘How do you measure success?’
In South Africa ‘success’ is inevitably measured in results.
Jacques Nienaber and his Springboks won eight out of their 13 Tests in 2022 – that’s 62 percent.
That would get you a pass mark in most countries.
I say, MOST!
I went and looked at how that stacks up with other Bok coaches.
I decided, for the purpose of this ‘report card’, to just compare Nienaber’s brief tenure with the post-isolation coaches – from 1992 onwards.
It is for obvious reasons.
There is the way in which the game changed and evolved since the 1990s and post the 1970s (when the British and Irish Lions, based on the star-studded Welsh team, ruled the roost) and 1980s (when Australia and New Zealand started to overtake South Africa and the United Kingdom as the global leaders
With no rugby in 2020 for the Springboks, 2021, was the first year that Nienaber actually coached. He won eight out of 13 Tests – also 62 percent.
So how does that stack up with his post-isolation predecessors?
His boss and immediate antecedent, the Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has a 65.4 percent success rate – which includes a World Cup win, with Nienaber as his assistant.
Before that, it looks like this: Allister Coetzee (44 percent), Heyneke Meyer (66 percent), Peter de Villiers (62 percent), Jake White (66 percent), Rudolf Straeuli (52 percent), Harry Viljoen (53 percent), Nick Mallett (71 percent), Carel du Plessis (37 percent), Andre Markgraaff (61 percent), Kitch Christie (100 percent), Ian McIntosh (33 percent), John Williams (20 percent).
That is certainly the simplistic view – just look at the numbers, without unpacking them a bit more.
I would like to peel back a few of the layers.
What does it look like against the top teams perhaps?
I decided to look at the top five teams on the world rankings, which include South Africa at No.4.
Against Ireland the Springboks lost, against France they lost, New Zealand was one win and a loss, with a win against England.
That is two from five – 40 percent.
Now we look at the next five on the ranking. Against Australia it was also a loss and a win, the Boks did not play Scotland, won twice against Argentina, beat Wales two-one and did not play against Japan.
That is five from seven against teams six to 10 on the rankings
The only other result in 2022 includes a win against Italy (ranked 12th).
Let me peel that back a bit further.
There was an impressive win against England, which contributed to their coach Eddie Jones getting the axe.
There were also promising signs against France, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand – despite some disappointing losses.
The series against Wales also delivered some answers, perhaps not those the supporters wanted.
However, as coach Jacques Nienaber so expressively said: ‘We now know what doesn’t work.”
Those are valuable lessons heading into a World Cup year, 2023.
The disappointments for me are the losses to Wales in Bloemfontein and the All Blacks at Ellis Park.
The undoubted highlights were the wins over the All Blacks in Nelspruit and England at Twickenham.
Finally, a few ‘awards’:
Player of the year: Eben Etzebeth
Honourable mentions: Siyamthanda Kolisi and Damian Willemse
Newcomer of the year: Kurt-Lee Arendse
Honourable mentions: Manie Libbok and Canan Moodie
Most underrated performer: Willie le Roux
Honourable mentions: Albertus Smith and Franco Mostert
Biggest disappointment: Joseph Dweba
Dishonourable mentions: Herschel Jantjies and Elton Jantjies