The best kept secret: Boks' Plan B
In the aftermath of the Springboks’ dismantling at the hands of the Wallabies in Adelaide, it appears to have been another case of ‘insanity’ by the Bok brains trust.
They are ploddingly sticking to what worked three years ago, even if the cracks already started to show.
The Springboks, as everyone knows, pride themselves on three things.
Those are a good kicking game, set piece dominance and rock solid defence.
When they get it right on the day – as we saw in the first Test against New Zealand in Nelspruit – it is a thing of beauty.
However, what happens if even one of those areas malfunctions?
It becomes a domino effect. Everything tends to crash, panic mode sets in and there is never a Plan B or Plan C to fall back on.
The Springboks have little to no attacking arsenal and literally rely on individual brilliance to save the day – as Cheslin Kolbe did against the British and Irish Lions and Am did against New Zealand at Ellis Park.
As we saw in Johannesburg in Round Two of the Rugby Championship, sometimes not even that is enough.
Bashing it up around the corner with one-off runners is easy to defend if you know it’s coming.
Against Australia, in Adelaide, we saw the hosts playing a far more intelligent brand, with average players, against a side stacked with players other nations envy and getting the victory.
A lot of talk came from the coaching and management about blooding players for the next world cup in France.
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COVID-19 did rob them of a whole season of doing so.
The series against the B&I Lions was very much an emergency job, were going with the tried and tested was justified.
However, what happened after that?
Admittedly players like Aphelele Fassi, Rosko Specman, Jasper Wiese, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw were capped.
However, looking at the playing time for these guys – with the exception of Wiese – they didn’t play a lot of Test rugby.
If you look at the team selection for the second Test against New Zealand, Duane Vermeulen started – after coming back from surgery and played ahead of Wiese.
The latter did nothing wrong the week before.
How can that be justified? They know what they have in Vermeulen and it wouldn’t have done any damage to either let him play off the bench, or even let him regain fitness in the upcoming United Rugby Championship – then get him in for the year-end tour and give Evan Roos a proper run.
The same scenario played itself out with Elton Jantjies in the first Test against Wales.
This past weekend there was Francois Steyn, who came in off the bench after last playing for the Cheetahs against Griquas in a Currie Cup match back in May.
I just get the feeling reputation is what is important for the coaching and management and not form.
Have we not learnt from previous post-World Cup winning years on how to better manage players who are in their twilight years and let them be mentors for the next generation – as Schalk Brits were during the 2019 World Cup and Willie le Roux currently is for Damian Willemse?
The Springboks will play England outside the international window on their year-end tour and will most likely be without their overseas-based players.
In the absence of Vermeulen and Wiese, Will Evan Roos start – given that he just has 46 minutes of Test rugby to his credit?
Will the same thing happen with Elrigh Louw?
What about the centres?
De Allende (free agent) and Esterhuizen are both overseas.
Will Willemse be shifted to No.12 and Fassi play fullback?
It could have catastrophic effects and full blame should lay on the coaches and management, because of their arrogance in selection and lack of evolution in their approach to the game ahead of the 2023 World Cup.