I am a South African living in England, in Essex. I coach an u 17 team. On Sunday mornings we play our games. So Sunday 4th October was the morning after the huge disappointment for English rugby when England became the first host nation to be knocked out of the RWC in the pool stages. So inevitably the conversation amongst dads and players ,moms and coaches was about the previous days action.
After expressing their points of view on what went wrong for England and them fairly giving the Aussies their due, they then move the conversation quickly away from England’s disappointment with ” Your boys (South Africa) look good”. My response is a bit reserved, a bit cautious because I am not that convinced by how South Africa are playing ” Yes, it was all about the power and physicality, I’m not sure that’s the way to go.” To which they respond ” But that’s their game, they are so good at it”
People feel I’m not supporting the Springboks when I criticise them constantly. Criticism has the aim of pointing toward how you can improve or further improve as opposed to insulting which is negative.
South Africa enjoyed 54% of the possession and played only 3.6% of the game in their own 22 metere area. This reflects a dominance. We can also look at how much gainline success the Boks enjoyed and how many times the Boks stopped the Scots before they got any gainline success.
These stats indicate just how dominant the Springboks were in this match. So why would I feel this is not good enough? There is a number of answers to that question. First off I don’t think South Africa made optimum use of their dominance. Secondly I ask the question, what will happen when a team fronts up to the Boks and they no longer enjoy go forward ball? Thirdly, how long will the bodies last with this attritional style of play? Fourth, what would have happened if Scotland had tried to attack the outside channels more and in the process move the Boks about?
What I am saying is that a result like this Test, against Scotland, confirms to all the fans of ‘Domkrag’ rugby that Domkrag rugby is effective and gets results and that Domkrag rugby should be the way South Africa chooses to play. I feel it is effective to a degree against sides that you can outmuscle. It may work for one game but not over a prolonged period. It’s simplicity makes it easy to plan against. Even if you win the RWC playing this way, it won’t take you to the top of the world rankings and keep you there.
Would this rugby have knocked an English side out of the pool? Will this rugby beat Australia? This rugby reminds me of the rugby played by the Springboks against England at the start of Heyneke Meyer’s tenure. So does that mean that Springbok rugby has progressed or just gone full circle? Who knows if I’m right or wrong? One thing I’m certain of is that the rise in standards by all the teams in the RWC is because they are willing to learn new things and commit themselves to playing that way.
Professional rugby is a business and the bottom line in business is money. Money comes from bums on seats which increases the more the crowd is entertained. The future lies with learning and adapting not returning to the old ways.