Boks reap benefits of having a professional coach

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Aug 13, 2019, 05:42

Johannesburg - Before the kick-off of the World Cup warm-up game between Ireland and Italy at the weekend the Irish commentators were still talking about the Springboks as their team’s likely opponents in the World Cup quarterfinal round.

That was after the All Blacks were outplayed by Australia, but before the Springboks destroyed Argentina, the team that knocked Ireland out of the last World Cup in 2015, on their home field. What would the Irish be saying now? We actually do know what they are saying. As one website put it: “The Springboks are frighteningly awake... Their forwards are ferocious”.

That’s stating the obvious of course, with the Boks having clinched the trophy that reflects southern hemisphere supremacy, now known as the Rugby Championship, in fine style with their 46-13 win. That went with an away draw against the All Blacks and a comprehensive win over Australia in their opening game. As it turned out, that opening fixture was between the two best teams in the competition.

Ireland's role in South Africa's resurgence

But back to those Irish and their forecast of a meeting with the Boks in the play-offs that now looks far less likely than it did a few weeks ago. Remembering of course that the Boks play Ireland if they finish second in the pool behind New Zealand, which is no longer something anyone should bet their worldly possessions on.

If the Boks do end up playing Ireland in the first play-off game, and they win, the Irish should consider their own role in sparking the Springbok resurgence. For the heart of the Bok success is built around the professional edge to the coaching set-up that has been brought by head coach Rassie Erasmus and his long-time assistant Jacques Nienaber.

Both those coaches will tell you they experienced a significant lift in their coaching careers in their time with Munster, the Irish provincial team. When Erasmus arrived back in South Africa to take up the position of SARU director of rugby, he wasn’t shy to say that having coached in Ireland he now knew that South African rugby wasn’t really professional.

That is something that will be repeated by just about any former or current player who comes back from a stint overseas. Indeed, in researching a book that will shortly be released, what became apparent to this scribe was that many ex-Boks believe that South Africa has a coaching problem, and someone like Fourie du Preez would tell you he learnt more in a year in Japan than he did in virtually his whole career in South Africa.

You’d hesitate before suggesting that Jake White, the most recent World Cup-winning coach, wasn’t a proper professional coach. White might actually be a better international coach than a club or provincial coach, but he has still measured up well overseas. He has walked the walk at all levels. White may even be partly responsible for the improved Wallaby forward performances for it could track back to what he started with the Brumbies way back in 2013.

Local coaches grow overseas

But for the rest? My money says that if you asked Nick Mallett he’d tell you that rugby was really still amateur when he was Bok coach in the late 1990s and 2000 and his first exposure to proper professionalism was when he coached in France after his stint with the Boks. He was successful there and probably became a much better coach, only South Africa never got to benefit from it.

Heyneke Meyer hadn’t coached at the top level for several years when he took charge and might now be a better coach after working in France than he ever was at the Boks, and former Bok assistant Johan van Graan has probably up-skilled himself several times over working with Munster.

His role as assistant to first Meyer and then Allister Coetzee pre-dated the growth he would have experienced in Europe, and Coetzee, now that he has had extended exposure to the Japanese variant of rugby professionalism, is probably a better coach now than he was with the Boks, too.

Could it be that the Springbok resurgence, which has been quite incredible if you consider where they were when they were beaten 57-0 by New Zealand less than two years ago, is rooted in the fact that for once the Boks have that rare thing they have seldom had in the past - a properly professional coach?

Boks now strong in key areas

The current Bok team inhabits a different planet to the one they did after that Albany nightmare, and yet so many of the core members of that squad are still members of this one. What can that be attributed to other than coaching?

What is undeniable, is that the Boks are the undisputed current kings of the south. They scored 11 tries across their three matches, and along the way they made some significant progress in areas that are crucial before a World Cup - their defence is dominant, their pack is indeed formidable, but as significantly, given the nature of World Cups, the halfbacks are cooking.

Handre Pollard led the way in Salta with his 31 points and suddenly he is looking the prodigious talent he threatened to become when he made his debut as a 19-year-old in 2014. Elton Jantjies was good against Australia and will probably get an opportunity to build that confidence further when the Boks play their farewell match on South African soil ahead of the World Cup, in Pretoria on Saturday.

Faf de Klerk still fluffs some kicks but has long been the established No 9 and there are no concerns there, nor over his back-up, the exciting Herschel Jantjies. For good measure throw in the now-matured talent that is Cobus Reinach, who is likely to start against Argentina in Pretoria this week, and the Boks can breathe easily when it comes to back-up in a key position.

Regular captain poised to return

There’s plenty for the Boks to enthuse over elsewhere. For instance, lest it be forgotten, the Boks played the World Championship without their regular captain Siya Kolisi, and yet there was never any question of the loose-forwards being caught short or the leadership falling short in his absence.

Kolisi played for Western Province at the weekend and his return to the mix should be imminent. Elsewhere, such as wing, there are also players set to return to the selection pool. Yet while Aphiwe Dyantyi can’t be ignored, and you could also make a very strong case for Sbu Nkosi, it would seem hard on the incumbents Cheslin Kolbe (and what an inspired selection that has been) and Makazole Mapimpi to leave them out given how well they have played. Ditto for Kwagga Smith or for the even more influential Francois Louw on the side of the scrum.

We should see Marcell Coetzee and others get a proper opportunity this weekend, perhaps Vincent Koch in the front-row too, and brilliant though Franco Mostert was in Salta, Lood de Jager will always challenge when he is fully fit and has his momentum.

Malcolm Marx is still regarded by some as the best hooker in world rugby and yet Bongi Mbonambi was outstanding when he got his opportunity to start in Salta, Trevor Nyakane has progressed to an unbelievable extent, Frans Steyn looks committed and still has his magical touches and will not let the team down.

The bottom line of all of this is that Erasmus has options and is arguably going to the World Cup with the best prepared squad since… well, since White’s squad won the World Cup in 2007. In fact this squad might have something on that one in the sense that they have just had a dry run mini-final, as the Salta game was a competition decider and the Boks dealt really well with the pressures created by the massive expectations from back home.

Much has been written over the years about the impact the Bulls and Sharks’ success in the 2007 Super 14 season had on that year’s World Cup effort. But in reality it was only the Bulls who got the experience of winning a final. For the Sharks, who were nearly men and lost a game they should have won, that Durban decider would not have been a good rehearsal for the World Cup final they played five months later.

No-one will pretend the Rugby Championship measures in the same league as the World Cup when it comes to importance, but Duane Vermeulen, the skipper, had it right after the win in Salta when he spoke of South Africa as a country that thrives on confidence. And confidence is something the Boks will have in abundance now.


The bottom line is, yes Erasmus has some nice options excepting at Flyhalf where the cupboard to replace with a like for like is still unknown. Erasmus missed an opportunity by not replacing Pollard with Frans past Saturday.

Aug 13, 2019, 07:59


The fact is that Steyn was replaced by Montpellier as flyhalf by buying out the contract between Racing Metro and Goosen and replacing Steyn with Serfontein at center,   The past year the mainly used him at full back and then did not renew their contract with Steyn.

That makes it clear there are serious problems for Steyn in both the two positions,   The problem is that Steyn when tried at flyhalf buy the Springboks under De Villiers was a serious flop at flyhalf and that trial ended very soon.   When he played at flyhalf for the Sharks in 2014 he was a farce which set a seriously negative record in ball possession losses by poor kicking and losing balls when tackled and hanging onto balls.    He averaged three incidents per game played of those three deficiencies and that continued when he played at flyhalf for Montpellier.   

There is no way that Steyn  would not bugger up games comprehensively when playing at flyhalf.     

As to the other coaches we had, all of De Villiers, Meyer and Coetzee failed in the professional requirement and the same applies to the provincial coaches, bar Ackerman,   The rest was and remain inadequate in their coaching role.      

Aug 13, 2019, 12:21

There is a lot of hype here. The biggest factor is that the Boks have more depth now then they have for quite some time. The upswing in fortune has coincided more with the next gen stepping up to this level. 

Then there is the matter of the Rugby Championship. The Wallabies are still finding themselves, the All Blacks are at their most vulnerable since 2003-2004, Los Pumas look decidedly average. The Boks still rank bottom for most attacking statistics, meaning they are not using the ball. This is a team built for counter-attack, but actually rely on opportunism more than deliberate ad constructive attack. The Boks are the only top 12 nation that cannot use the ball, with its best efforts looking overly scripted, with little variation, clunky and ineffective. Then they kick. Without power up front this team would be nothing. As we saw last year, gain parity with the Boks up front, this team looks bereft of ideas. 

Still the unwavering faith in mediocre talent. Lood has done what? What has Damian and Kriel become? Reinach still has no skills. Herschel has yet to prove he can run the show. Steph is a liability. 

Yes, far too much hype. I don't have faith in this very limited gameplan that is ill-suited to the players we have available. I see a stubborn refusal to learn and adapt. 

Aug 13, 2019, 12:29

Rather a limited game plan under Erasmus than no game plan under Meyer and Coetzee.  and I have had no faith in the squad selections of Meyer and Coetzee 

Amazing how you can keep up writing BS when you in fact were wrong all along about everything you came up about the present team and coach.   Happy Idiots Day to you.  LMAO .     

Aug 13, 2019, 12:53

To actually believe that those coaches had no gameplan is embarrassingly ignorant. 

You still maintain this is a better attacking side. Where do they rank in each attacking statistic compared to Meyer or Coetzee? You lambasted poor aimless kicks. What do you suppose this team has been doing? When they don't kick, they shuffle ball wide and our wings kick or get smashed. Our clunky attacking structures haven't worked. We are the most predictable and simplistic team in top tier rugby. 

Aug 13, 2019, 13:28

They scored more tries than the players with Meyer scored to start with and they won for the first time the RC trophy,   That is what counts  stupid.  The theories you pronounce is total make-believe and stupid as hell. LMAO - your stupidity cause real mirth.  

Aug 13, 2019, 13:44

Really? They scored more tries, that is true. However, that isn't "all what counts" when assessing the brand of rugby. You claim this is a better attacking side, yet you have still to prove this is true. 

Metres Run (2015/2019)

  1. Australia: 355/291
  2. New Zealand: 436/218 
  3. Argentina: 364/382
What makes this all the more impressive is the spike in attacking numbers after 2015. Even after all this time, the 2015 Boks better almost every test under Rassie for attacking output. Even against inferior opposition, the 2019 Boks still can't surpass that team. This isn't an opinion. This isn't a lie. This is a simple fact. To make matters worse for you, the Boks of 2015 only had 39% possession against Australia, yet even with Damian the clueless, they surpass the 2019 Boks for that fixture. This couldn't be more hilarious! With 55% possession (71% in the second half, to the 2015 Bok's 21%) they still couldn't produce better numbers. That's Skop 'N Pop for you. 

Aug 13, 2019, 14:16

And the 2015 Springboks lost all three RC tests and the 2019 Springboks won the trophy with ease.   All the running is meaningless in that context.   lets face facts - the 2019 Springbopks scored 12 tries against the 7 of the 2015 Springboks.  

The 2015 Springboks had a negative point count of MINUS 23 points difference on the log - the 2019 Springboks had a POSITIVE 51 points difference on the log.

When will you ever learn about something positive in rugby.   You have no realization that kicking under Meyer was virtually totally aimless and in the main totally ineffective and most often just represent possession turnovers.   Under Erasmus too many kicks occur - but kicking is far more effective as recipients are normally under pressure when they get the ball and often enough lose possession in the process.     

Silly - get real facts in perspective.  Accept that the 2019 Springboks won the RC trophy - something Meyer and the overaged and over-the-hill teams ever achieved,  LMAO        

Aug 13, 2019, 14:21

The 2015 Springboks faced the best attacking side in world rugby, the eventual World Champions and one of the best teams that season in the Pumas. who have the Boks faced this year? An ailing Wallabies side who were the worst attacking Wallaby side in over 40 years, a deteriorated All Black side, a lackluster Pumas side. You cannot compare the two. 

This is an inferior attacking side. The gameplan is overly simplistic and has yet to prove successful against any strong opposition. Simples. 

Aug 13, 2019, 14:25

Idiocy remains supreme in your postings - LMAO

Aug 13, 2019, 14:31

How's life on the ropes?

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