One-Foot Wonders

Written 20 October 2017

Why did the Boks lose the Newlands Test against the All Blacks by one point?

Take your pick:

  1. Jantjies missed a penalty forty metres out in front of the poles in the first half.

  2. Cronje failed to pass to an unmarked Jantjies fifteen metres from the tryline in the first half.

  3. Cronje kicked a poorly directed box-kick in the second half. It was taken by Havili who passed to Damian McKenzie. This player ran fifty metres to score. Where was the defence?

  4. Skosan tapped a pass going wide right for Ioane to intercept and score.

It’s just not good enough to say our forwards played well in tight and loose. They did on the whole. But victory in rugby is most of the time about what happens AFTER possession has been gained. Our backs played better but not well enough. There was evidence of real thinking on attack, of using the blindside wings, of bringing in the fullback. But where was the tactical kicking?

It is just not possible against the best side in the world to simply pass the ball out to the wing against a solid rush defence. Look, we have three problems the All Blacks don’t have:

  1. Jantjies is a one-footed left boot kicker. When he attempts a chip or grubber (what’s that?!!) running to his right, he has to swivel to slide his left foot across the ball to place it accurately. I’ve seen him succeed once in umpteen matches. Has he been coached how to grubber? Of course not. And certainly not with his right foot.

  2. Andries Coetzee is a one-footed left boot kicker, who gathers the ball well and runs straight into the defence ninety percent of the time. Just like Mills Maliauna used to do but without the latter’s flair. When Coetzee kicks to the left touchline, he has no right foot to use. Result? Hardly any distance or he gives possession away.

  3. Cronje is mainly but not exclusively a right foot. He has clearly worked on his box-kicks but accuracy is not precise enough. Have you ever seen him kick one with his left foot? Of course not.

So , in this regard, let’s look at the New Zealand team:

  1. Aaron Smith at scrumhalf can kick into the box and tactically (remember his left-footed chip for Ioane in the 57-0 slaughter) with either foot;

  2. Beauden Barrett kicks very well with his right foot but is capable with his left. There’s no problem when he’s running to his left.

  3. Damian McKenzie is two-footed in any situation.

Our backline coaches appear enthusiastic but not perceptive enough. On a personal note, I’d love to play against Coetzee at fullback. I’d pin him to his left touchline every time. I used to do that against Tienie Martin of Rhodesia and Manicaland, who never bothered to learn how to kick with his left foot. Using this tactic, one can pin opponents in their own half after short touchkicks by the opposition.

Forgive a personal memory: against Argentina, in an IRB recognised international in 1965, I noticed their fullback was a one-footer; pinned him on his weak side, played in their half and we won 18-11. Although my old school Selborne College ignores the fact, this appearance made me the first Old Selbornian to captain his country to victory in an international test match.

Remember this Puma side went on to draw a series versus the Boks. So we did well. Our forwards were magnificent on the day and we forced them to concede penalties in their half. I think I kicked three on the day from about forty metres out. I also dropped a goal because after any number of attempts to break their defensive line at centre and wing, I decided to take the three points.

For some  crazy reason, some members of the Rhodesian crowd booed me as I was taking the final two penalty kicks at goal. Did they think rugby was basketball? You know ‘tip, tip, tip, pass, basket, tip, tip, tip, pass, basket........’ad nauseam – a game for people with very short concentration spans. I rest my case.

All sport is about trying to win by using the right overall strategy and tactics. How to play at rugby in your opponents 22 red zone is critical. There must be at least a dozen tactics. One I haven’t seen since, was Pieter Rossouw’s brilliant try against the All Blacks in NZ, when a series of lightning –fast dummies and offloads saw him thunder in under the posts. Where’s that move gone? Serfontein remains the most thrustful of the backline; Jesse Kriel is a journeyman. I’d pick Janse van rensburg and Am of the Sharks as my centres any day, with Serfontein on the bench.

While I’m at it, the Boks continue to use Jantjies to kick to the left touchline with his left boot – the banana kick. They lose at least fifteen metres each time which could have been gained by a right –footer. Have we coached one? Doesn’t look like it. Have they noticed? Silly question.

The Boks performance in this Newlands Test was very encouraging, but unless we can use both sides of the park to equal advantage on attack, we won’t win. We also won’t win if Jantjies continues to miss goalable penalties (he’s shlky under pressure)  or a captain like Etzebeth declines easy kickable penalties as he he did against the Wallabies on two occasions. We then failed to score with our driving maul and drew 27-27. Poor tactical captaincy. ‘Take the points!!!’

Neil Jardine

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