‘Modern rugby’ is a term that myself along with many other South African fans have labelled all the rugby styles that endeavour to score tries. They play positive rugby meaning they try to beat the opposition rather than try to stop the opposition beating them. This style has been evolving for many years and is probably being played to it’s best standard in recent years as a result of law changes, scientific strenth and conditioning, excellent coaching and hours and hours of hard work on the training field by the players.
To call Harry Viljoen a ‘Modern rugby’coach is a bit like calling me a world class player. Meaning that is what both of us wish we were. Harry had the intention for the Springboks. Harry finished his rather short stint as Bok coach with a 53% win ratio. He walked out of the job as he had done at Transvaal, Natal and the Stormers. Being a multi-millionaire probably made it easy for Harry to say enough is enough and leave as he was never in it for the money
Harry had actually told his players not to kick which showed his intention to play ball in hand attacking rugby. The thinking behind this is probably that he felt if you had possesion you would grow used to running with ball in hand. Depending on players skills and decision making to create and by doing it often enough combinations would grow. Too much of the onus was on the players. He gave the players the opportunity to express themselves but as we have seen with all good attacking teams in recent times, is that a structure on attack needs to be established first then you allow players to express themselves within that structure.
So Harry’s intention was good but the application was flawed. It lacked know how. The onus was on the players to be spontaneous and for them to create the structure themselves. For players to be thinking in unison they must be drilled on a training field to do so. In this situation we do this and in that situation we do that, and practice it over and over so come match day the players just do it without thinking. In essence Harry failed to coach attack. He asked for attack, forced the endevour on the team but ultimately failed.
Harry was part of a period in Springbok rugby where standards were in decline and almost heading for free fall. It got worse with Harry’s successor Rudolf Straeuli where not only did the win ratio get worse but there were several controversies during his reign. It wasn’t untill Jake White was appointed that Springbok rugby began to recover.
No wonder South African supporters and the media are so sceptical of ‘Modern rugby’. I look back at this time and wonder how Harry got the Springbok job, his track record in Superugby was not good and neither was his Currie Cup record and he had a history of quitting.
In the end Harry had good intentions but he lacked the ability to carry out his intentions even though he endeavoured to do so. His time as Springbok coach did more damge than good and drove SARU, the media, the players and supporters in the direction of Domkrag rugby.