‘No positives for Boks’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks' record 57-15 loss against the All Blacks in Durban.

On the Kings Park Test

'There aren’t any positives after a loss like that. I suppose the first half was a brave performance, but remember New Zealand were threatening a lot more than we were and it is impossible to defend for 80 minutes if you don’t hold on to the ball.

'The philosophy of trying to play rugby without the ball is not only a negative one, but it just doesn’t work against a side which has such attacking genius as the All Blacks do at the moment.

'Looking at the stats, 758m made by New Zealand to our 174m, they had 151 carries to 61, they beat 33 defenders to our two, 190 passes to 79, 24 offloads to six, 68% possession to 32% and 71% territory to our 29%. And we missed 33 tackles. It was such a comprehensive victory I was relieved to hear the final whistle quite frankly, because it was painful.

On the Springboks' game plan

'In 2007 there were different laws to the game, which benefited the defending side. The tackler was allowed to play the ball immediately, the maul had different laws so you could kick to the corner and drive, and as a kicking side we had some very good chasers and an outstanding kicker in a guy like Fourie du Preez. We don’t have that anymore.

'This isn’t just the All Blacks, this is five Super Rugby franchises that all have their own methods of playing but they all do the basics right. They keep the ball in two hands and pounce on the mistakes of the opposition.

'We have side like the Lions who finished first in South Africa and they played in the Super Rugby final. In their side, there were a number of players who played very well and were exceptional against New Zealand teams. Yet, we only had two Lions players who started this Test match. Clearly Allister Coetzee and his coaching staff don’t believe that the way the Lions play can win you Test matches and I’m afraid I have to disagree.

'The Lions were the side that held on to the ball the longest out of any franchise last year and this year they were in the top three of teams in possession. If you have the ball, the opposition can’t score tries. If you hold on to possession and vary your attack in the way the Lions, the All Blacks and all New Zealand franchises do, then you end up with a situation where you can successfully hold on to the ball and put the opposition under pressure.

'Kicking the ball away in desperation and then not finding touch against people like Waisake Naholo and Israel Dagg will cost you.

'Our defence is frenetic. We tackle and tackle and then get tired. And as soon as the intensity drops against the All Blacks, they score tries. Allister has to come up with a different solution like the Lions have done. Select players who can hold on to the ball, have skills and can challenge their opponents in all areas of the game, not just on the fringes and in the driving maul.

'In the nine games I’ve watched so far, this Springbok side hasn’t shown that they are able to play with the width of the field or an attacking kicking game.

'The Lions have a style of play that suits Elton Jantjies’s attacking philosophy. They retain possession and play on the front foot. The whole team plays a similar brand of rugby and it’s not as if you can’t play that brand at international level, because the All Blacks and Argentina do it. Why can’t the Boks?

On the way SA rugby is run

'There’s no question that structures in New Zealand rugby is the template South Africa needs to follow. A lot of what we saw today should be squarely blamed on our structures and our administrators because we have not got a professional setup in South Africa that equals the New Zealand system.

'In New Zealand the All Blacks are always placed first. The New Zealand Rugby Union contracts their Super Rugby players and places them in the franchises. Here, the every team signs its own players and coach. What I’m trying to point out is they have a centralised system run for the benefit of New Zealand rugby, we have a system that benefits our provinces and not the national side, which should actually be the main priority.

'We can’t expect coaches or players to compete at such a high level with inexperienced and unprofessional administrators at the helm. We have 14 unions, but we can barely afford six unions.

'When I was fired [as Springbok coach], they appointed Harry Viljoen and he lasted for a very short period of time and then they got Rudolph Straeuli and he wasn’t successful. Then Jake White came and served four years and did well and won a World Cup. So surely some continuity should have happened after that? 

'But still that is not the main problem. The problem in South Africa is that we cannot maintain 14 professional unions. We always talk about the abundance of talent we have, but a lot of those youngsters are going overseas because of the weak rand. We have to keep those players in the country by reducing the number of unions and making those franchises professional in the sense that people can own shares as they do in England and France. That will allow businesses to run our unions and not people politically voted into position.'

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Nick Mallett