Confusion in Bok camp

Willem Alberts and Francois Venter have offered differing views on how rugby should be played at Test level, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.

The Boks have been caught between two playing styles in 2016. In the wake of the 26-20 loss to Ireland at Newlands, coach Allister Coetzee demanded that his players embrace a pragmatic philosophy or face the axe.

Those calls, however, fell on deaf ears, and Coetzee was left to lament the players’ defiance and ignorance in the wake of subsequent losses in the Rugby Championship.

On Saturday, the Boks slumped to a 37-21 defeat to England. Again, the South Africans were undone by a failure to appreciate the occasion and the wet conditions. On the other hand, it could be said that they showed little intent to counter-attack and that their decision-making was shocking.

In the aftermath, caught up with two members of the Bok starting side. It was interesting to hear what one veteran with an intimate knowledge of northern hemisphere conditions thought of the game plan. It was equally interesting to hear to one newcomer call for a ball-in-hand approach in the tour matches to come.

‘I don’t think the game plan was at fault on Saturday,’ said Alberts, the Stade Français and Bok flank. ‘It was more an execution problem than a game-plan problem.

‘What we do need to do is to find the balance between attack and kicking. Our ball retention needs to be better. But then if we can’t execute our game plan, we can’t get the ball back.’

Venter, who made his Test debut at Twickenham, held a different view.

‘It was a slow game with more kicking. It was hard to get into. There was a lot more pressure than what I was used to. We couldn’t handle the contestable kicks.

‘We need to start trusting our game and what we can do with ball in hand,’ he said. ‘We have the ability to score tries.

‘We will be back after this, we’ve got heart and will look to improve in future. Everyone must stand up now and put the pride back into South African rugby.’

An all-out attacking approach, however, could be a recipe for disaster in the two remaining matches. The Boks may beat Italy via an expansive style, but the famed Wales defence will not be easy to breach.

The Boks have a lot to rectify ahead of their next clash with Italy in Florence. It is concerning to note that two players, and in all likelihood more, have differing views on the game plan.

Coetzee is likely to make changes for the next game, and at least one of them could be forced. Eben Etzebeth left the field on Saturday after sustaining a head knock, and could be out for the rest of the tour.

This may see Pieter-Steph du Toit returning to lock, and Coetzee selecting a more conventional (albeit untried) loose-forward combination of Nizaam Carr, Alberts and Warren Whiteley. The alternative is to retain the back row that did duty at Twickenham, and pick Franco Mostert and Lood de Jager as the starting locks.

Photo: Joel Ford/Getty Images

Post by