Sunday, November 12, 2006

South Africa Lose to Ireland

Ireland comprehensively thumped a clueless Springbok team as South Africa continues it's decline as a power in world rugby. There are many opinions as to why this is happening and so I would like to add mine.

Coaching - there can be little doubt that the Springbok coach must be held accountable for putting a team onto the park that looked as amateurish as they did today. He has said in the past that he can only tell them how to play and has no control on what they do once they are there and has gone as far as to say he has no talent to select from. This sounds like a school teacher and not a national coach. At this level he should be encouraging their talents and giving them the means to use them collectively and creatively, to play to their strengths and recognise their weaknesses and build on them. Graham Henry has shown the way with the current AB's.

Talent - There is no shortage of rugby talent in South Africa! They are consistently doing well at the U19 and U21 level, and then meet a barrage of provincial coaches, etc, who coach all their ability out of them and try to make them play "power" rugby, to run over the opposition defense rather than around and stop them from tackling properly but instead to try to smash the opposition. This all worked before the professional era when the opposition were weedy Northern Hemisphere players. There is no strength advantage any longer!

Selection - The National team is exactly that. It should not matter who is in the team as long as they are the best. There should not be any political interference at any level. The imbalances of the past would be more productively addressed at the entry level, with sports scholarships for talented players from disadvantaged backgrounds. Until the talent comes through, the make up of the team will be predominantly white, but a successful team will generate more widespread support and the "black" players like Bryan Habana will be heroes and role models, and then the "black" talent will come through. What a huge untapped pool!

- For goodness sake, how can old, over the hill players be selected for a development team to the NH? Why are combinations not being tested? Why are there no new ideas? There are numbers of "form" players, players with different styles available that could out-play the ponderous, musclebound, clueless players that were put on the park today.

Tackle Ball - South Africa do not know how to compete for the ball at the breakdown! This is absolutely vital in the modern game. Why is this? I think that there are several reasons. Firstly the wrong loose forward combinations (Floors and Watson should be there), secondly either they don't know the laws or the refs are applying the laws unequally. It does seem that the latter applies to a degree, especially with certain refs who will remain nameless. The team has been whistled out the game by so many refs that there is noticeable hesitancy to get in there and get the ball out.

Basic Skills and Fitness - These should be a given. The players should all be able to come to the table with both. To a certain extent they are overpaid and under performing. There is a culture of playing golf, etc, instead of working on the basics. Where is the hunger? Do away with the contracted player but pay very well for performance. The player is only as good as his last game.

Unions - Take the power away from the small unions! Develop a structure for SA rugby that places the National team and the development of a National game and National talent as its prime objective. The smaller unions belong in a second string competition, and they should be proud of developing raw young talent that then moves to the big league.

Professionalism - there is only one objective and that is to be the best team in the world. It is too late for RWC 2007, so start working for the next. Wholesale changes must be mad. Start with a professional administration - not ex rugby players! Give them the power to recruit what is needed to win (even if it requires a foreign coach).

A new era in Springbok Rugby needs to begin now.

No comments: