2010 is finally over and the Springboks can now look back and reflect on what has been a pretty dismal year! It’s not like they were playing terrible rugby, not by a long shot; it’s the fact that our local franchises can produce some of the best rugby that the world has seen yet when the cream of the crop is selected and put into one green and gold world cup-winning machine, none of that is shown.
It’s one of the reasons that Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is getting a lot of flak from supporters and analysts. The questions were raised after the Tri-nations when the Springboks finished stone last in what will most likely be the final three in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Another one of the questions raised about the current coach is his substitution decisions and perhaps his positioning of certain players. Some of the choices reminded me of my days playing EA Rugby and just placing the highest rated players in any position because, in the game, it didn’t matter. However, “P Divvy”, this is not a game and certain players can, and should, only be played in certain positions.
This exact reasoning would probably show you why our forward pack is undoubtedly the best in the world and, in all fairness, our forward work is what really wins us our games. It might be the fact that they have all played together for ages or that the new comers are so right for their position that they just slot in.
We can’t say the same for our backline who, for the last three years, have not really had any consistency. This was very apparent in the UK tour and it will be our failing point in 2011 if we do not sort it out.
Our biggest loss has been du Preez at scrum half, although Hougaard has filled a lot of that gap; when he is on at least. Fly-half is also a problem area; Morne Steyn is a good player but not a great one even if he is the best kicker in the world.
For exactly that reason, a kicking fly-half the likes of John de Villiers, Jacque Fourie, Francois Steyn and Brian Habana can’t get the ball at pace and depict the backline game the way they used to. This is why there is such an outcry for Patrick Lambie to be given more than 5 minutes at fly half.
With a year to go we will most likely not see too many changes but with the talent of men we have standing behind the fly half eager to see some really clean ball, I would suggest starting at fly half and seeing where that gets us.
Having said all that, I must admit that watching South Africa just lose, or even better win, whilst playing very average rugby is still pretty encouraging. We can only expect more from the boys in 2011.