Boks must go own way

England intend to develop a playing style that is very different to that of the All Blacks, and the Springboks should too, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Eddie Jones has made some big statements over the years. The former Australia coach once said that the rest of the world would be in trouble if South Africa ever got its house in order.

Jones believed that South Africa possessed some of the most powerful and skilled players on the planet. He said that the Boks would be foolish to move away from their traditional strengths.

And yet, that is what many people are calling for in the wake of the Boks' two record defeats to the All Blacks. The prevailing feeling in South Africa is that the Boks will need to adopt the All Blacks' playing style if they intend to move forward and eventually reclaim the No 1 world ranking.

It's an opinion that's shared in many other rugby nations. The All Blacks have won every trophy on offer over the past 12 months. If they beat Australia in Auckland on 22 October, they will break the tier-one Test record for the most consecutive victories.

Jones, however, is not convinced that this is the best course of action. The England coach told the Sunday Times that his side would not follow New Zealand's lead.

'The thing that really annoys me about rugby at the moment, and I've got to say it, is that everyone tries to copy New Zealand,' Jones said. 'Why? Come up with your own game.

'Everything we are doing now is about coming up with a game to beat New Zealand and to make them uncomfortable. You can and hopefully will see that by 2018.'

England will host the Boks at Twickenham on 12 November. While the Boks have not lost to England since 2006, current form sees England installed as favourites to win the upcoming clash in London.

Jones's England have won nine Tests in a row. The Boks have lost five of their last nine games.

The Boks have looked to be a team without a clear plan or identity in 2016. Coach Allister Coetzee has pointed a finger at the backward South Africa system, which places the interests of the franchises above those of the national team.

Coetzee believes that if all the coaches in South Africa are on the same page, and if certain structures are put in place to manage top players correctly, the Boks will become a world force once more.

There is value in following New Zealand's lead with regard to their structures. The New Zealand Rugby Union contracts the players at franchise level, and all the franchises are encouraged to develop certain skills. By the time these players get to Test level, they have all the tools needed to thrive in an All Blacks set-up.

But should the Boks, who boast different traditional strengths that were once the envy of teams around the world, be looking to copy the playing style of the Kiwis? Surely not. As Jones has said of England, every team needs to go its own way.

South African rugby needs to look at why teams in this country are no longer dominating the tackle. The Bok coaches and players are in denial if they believe that the past nine performances have not detracted from a once proud aura.

The players aren't fit enough. The standard of defence and tactical kicking is not good enough, even at Super Rugby level. The Boks cannot expect to attack effectively and score tries if they are losing the collisions as well as the territorial battle.

In 2007, the Boks won the World Cup by favouring an approach that was built on uncompromising physicality. Their approach was much the same when they beat the British & Irish Lions and won the 2009 Tri-Nations.

Back then, the Boks and South African rugby still had an identity. The Boks were a team to be feared. If only they had built on those strengths, maintaining their traditional physicality while still striving to evolve their attack.

In 2016, the Boks have moved away from their traditional strengths, and have got it horribly wrong. The majority of the South African sides failed in the 2016 Super Rugby competition because they neglected areas liked defence and tactical kicking.

The Lions were the exception, but then one has to look at some of the reasons for their relative success. While Johan Ackermann's side impressed with ball in hand and scored some breathtaking tries, not enough was made of the hard work they did at the set pieces and collisions.

Of course, there were points in the tournament when the Lions' defence wasn't up to standard and their tactical kicking was exposed – the final against the Hurricanes for one. The Lions will need to address that in the pre-season if they hope to go one step further in 2017.

Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli