A 28-0 drubbing of Scotland on the own patch, which was again a very poor one, in dreadful conditions, and still some fans are not satisfied. Brilliant says Tank Lanning, and huge kudos to coach Heyneke Meyer.
This is exactly where Springbok rugby should be – dispatching the pretenders in savage 4 tries to nil hammerings even when not getting out of second gear, knowing that your best will have you on an equal footing with the All Blacks as contenders for the top spot on the world rankings.
Of course we would like the Boks to be the side enjoying an unbeaten season, with the All Blacks the side snapping at our heels as the No.2 side in the world, and with the groundwork laid by Meyer and his team, at least we now have that as a realistic goal for next year.
This time last year the Boks beat Scotland 21-10 in a fairly iffy performance, in June this year Scotland were up with 15 minutes to go at Mbombela, before the Boks clicked into gear to secure a 30-17 victory. On Saturday it was a 28-0 shutout while scoring 4 tries. In anyone’s book, that is proper progress!
Sure it might not have been pretty, but conditions both above and below mitigated a slightly duller approach. Not really needing to get out of second gear, Jean de Villiers’ men held onto the ball, used big blunderbusses like Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen, Flip van der Merwe and Bakkies Botha to run at the Scots, poached lineouts at will, set up driving mauls from their own lineouts, and shut down any hint of Scottish attack with the now notorious in your face Bok defence.
Willie le Roux did add some real spark at the back, though. His intercept try was the direct result of said Bok defence forcing the Hail Mary pass from Scotland, but his work in the build up to JP Pietersen’s try was sublime. And given the more than capable performance of Pat Lambie at flyhalf, I think it is fair to say that Meyer now has options in every position. Even at tighthead, even if not by design, but more on that in another piece …
The Bok game is a power game. In fact it is a blunt force trauma game, with the likes of Vermuelen, Alberts and 2 big locks instead of the more traditional single big No.4 lock and beanpole type jumper No. 5 lock. Get it right, with the correct personnel, and not many teams can live with it. Sans the correct personnel, though, and you can look pretty damn silly.
And that is why it is so important for Meyer to continue with his more ball in hand, skillful rugby at the same time. That is the game that will take the Boks to the next level, and truly challenge the All Blacks, but as they say in the classics, it is pretty damn difficult to build without foundations. Meyer is close to having this foundation well and truly laid …
The above first appeared as part of a column on ENCA.com