Springboks look to 2009 for motivation

Respected South African rugby writer Gavin Rich wrote in Business Day that in 2009, under captain John Smit, the Springboks had also been criticised for their style of play after losing to Australia in Brisbane in the Tri Nations, en route to two Tests in New Zealand.


Rich said after last weekend's game both Smit and 2009 team-mate Jean de Villiers each recognised South Africa's failed execution in their game as the reason for their loss to Australia and added that it had been the same for them in 2009.


"Execution was the problem that day. It was fixed a week later when they travelled across the Tasman and beat the All Blacks in Hamilton," he said.


South Africa went on to win five of their six Tri Nations games and the title that year.


The only possible difference in 2021 was some mental staleness Rich believed was a hangover from the British & Irish Lions series.


"Fixing their execution turned them into a different animal. If it were not for the mental staleness issue, that historical precedent would be something encouraging for the Boks to grab onto ahead of Saturday's clash," he said.


But something else was also standing in their way.

"Seeing how awkward the Boks looked when they played away from their normal template and tried to introduce the variations critics had been calling for got me thinking about something that has long been a concern: the lack of a dedicated, experienced specialist backline and attack coach in the Bok group," he said.


"Flyhalf Handré Pollard said the attacking performance in Brisbane was the best Bok one this year. If that is so, I would hate to see them on their bad days. Yes, they had more attacking intent than they normally do, and they might have been guilty of almost playing too much rugby.


"But having intent and doing it well, and knowing what to do, are different things," he said.


The Boks looked as if they hadn't thought about what they wanted to do. Their running was lateral, hemming in their wings, while variations were naïve and lacked innovation.


The side was missing the sort of direction former Golden Lions coach Swys de Bruin brought to the effort in 2018 as attack coach when South Africa beat the All Blacks in Wellington, he said.


"Proper attack coaching has always come across as a bit of an afterthought in SA rugby.


"As long as there is no dedicated, specialised attack coach at the Boks, attack will remain what it appears to be at the moment: an afterthought. And attempts to vary play by running the ball may continue to look awkward rather than reflect innovative thinking and coherent planning.


"Attack requires coaching as much as defence does," Rich said.


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