The Springboks must continue to follow their own unique path to success, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Springboks are not the All Blacks. While a lot can be said for the structures and the way the game is run in New Zealand, there’s no need for South Africans to copy and paste the game plan and mindset of their Kiwi cousins.
It’s a point that’s been made ad nauseam by just about every Bok coach. Eddie Jones, who was part of the management team when South Africa last won the World Cup in 2007, added his voice to the chorus when England toured in 2018.
The Boks, Jones said, should look to build on their natural strengths rather try to become carbon copies of the All Blacks. Jones employed the same philosophy when he took the coaching reins at England in 2016. A more traditional approach resulted in a record-equalling run of 18 consecutive victories.
Rassie Erasmus nearly lost his cool when the Bok approach was criticised by a foreign journalist at a press conference staged directly after the 49-3 pool stage win against Italy.
That result effectively secured South Africa a place in the playoffs, and while the execution of the plan wasn’t accurate enough, one could see what the Boks were trying to achieve. The journalist in question, however, wanted to know whether the Boks would be better off following the All Blacks.
Erasmus pointed out that the Boks were right up there with the top points- and try-scorers during the World Cup pool stage. He conceded that the execution had not been good enough at times, particularly in the opening game against the All Blacks.
He reminded all and sundry, however, about the challenging conditions in Japan as well as the type of rugby that is needed to clinch big World Cup matches.
Erasmus’ response may well have been directed at anyone who feels that pro sport is about entertainment rather than results. Like the All Blacks, the Boks have developed a game plan that they believe will bring them success.
South African rugby has different strengths, though, and the coach would be foolish not to centre an approach around that natural power and mentality.
Any comments made about a conservative and limited approach have been wide of the mark. Erasmus has looked to harness the counterattacking brilliance of Cheslin Kolbe as well as the playmaking talents of Willie le Roux.
Up front, he’s included athletes like Pieter-Steph du Toit and offloading specialists like RG Snyman to ensure that the side varies its attack.
There have been times when the Boks have been frustratingly inaccurate. And yet, it’s been disappointing to see people criticising the likes of Faf de Klerk for launching a box kick rather than criticising the execution of that specific box kick or chase.
When the Boks get that right, they will be in a better position to attack a fractured defence.
The Boks could go all the way in Japan if they improve their accuracy across the board. If they fall short of their goal, however, that failure will be down to the execution of the game plan rather than the game plan itself.
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