It is hard not to descend into the murky depths of the underworld of cliché and repetition when one considers this match. The only question worth asking is ‘Who is coaching the Boks?’ I use the word ‘coaching’ with reservation; I mean, where is the evidence of tightly focused attention to all aspects of play? It’s there in parts, but there is no organic overall control and purpose.
Scrums were fine, but as we all know, scrums don’t win matches in the modern game. In this Twickenham test, both sides won their own scrums – the few that took place. Matthew Proudfoot, the ‘scrumming coach’, will be pleased with his players. Why? What on earth did he expect? To be shoved off the ball? To be dominated? No one in his right mind would have expected that. We have a huge combined eight scrumming down – big strong men who know how to bind and push. So the ball went in behind the ‘hooker’s’ feet and we had little idea what to do with good ball. As Ashwin Willemse observed, there was no ‘cohesive attacking platform’ in the backline. Why not?
I mean compare this part of coaching with how England were prepared. From scrum and lineout, something was always going on. Their coaches and players had clearly concentrated on how to spring surprises on the opposition. This means doing the unexpected. Guess what – it means ‘creating the extra man’. Now there’s a thing! So, at times Youngs, the England scrumhalf, stood at flyhalf while the No. 8 became scrumhalf, the blindside wings were involved, they used skip passes and so on.
We tackled manfully and with determination, but where were our systems of defence from the set pieces? Youngs made a monkey out of the fine lock, du Toit – ill-selected as a flank – from two scrums and there were two tries. I’ll bet my last rand that Eddie Jones noticed the selection of a lock at the side of the scrum and said to Youngs, “ When he’s tired, slip him; he won’t lay a finger on you.” Believable? You bet. Jones is a student of the game, always learning.
Let’s acknowledge the two fine tries, dotted down by Goosen and de Klerk late in the game, but it was all too late. With respect to Lambie’s patchy performance, I can do no better than repeat Naas Botha’s comment, “How do they expect Lambie to play well at flyhalf when he is picked there so seldom?” Point made. And Paige? Slow, hovering over available ball so the defence of the opposition could get well-organised. What the hell was he thinking? He was painfully deliberate. I’d bring back Faf, but then he is blond. Sorry. I know that’s not the spirit of the rainbow nation. But, for me, the coloured spectrum is becoming blurred as each day passes.
I must confess when Lambie kicked his left-footed drop to put us ahead 9 - 7, I said hopefully, “I think we’ll win this one. We’ll pin them in their half and do the ‘Jannie de Beer’”. I was, of course, nostalgically recalling that famous day in Paris when de Beer kicked five drops to push England over the cliff in that World Cup without Teichman at the helm. There are more ways of winning a rugby match than by simply shovelling the ball out to the wing. But, in no time at all, I was proved wrong...again. There was defence from the Boks, but ‘intelligent’ defensive structures? No.
It’s clear: Allister Coetzee and most of his coaches are out of their depth. They are out-thought, out-manouvred, out-guessed in match after match. I fear for the future of Springbok rugby. To quote America’s man-of-the-moment, ‘it’s time to drain the swamp’.
On that mordant note, I’ll open a beer and recall some great Bok victories from yesteryear.