Bismark reopens can of worms

A few thoughts on yesterday’s Test between the Boks and the All Blacks …

The Nelson Mandela stadium is a truly sensational place to watch rugby, and the people of PE, in really embracing this Test match, made it an awesome weekend. They fully deserve more Tests.

In fact, SARU should consider only giving Tests to the unions that use the new Soccer World Cup stadia. The difference between the two was made even more apparent to me last week in Durban. After spending the morning at the Moses Mabhida stadium, it was like going back in a time machine when crossing the road to attend the Test match at Kings Park. That Durban situation is alarmingly ridiculous!

The win for the Boks yesterday was vital, and will go a long way to restoring confidence and building momentum.

The All Blacks played most of the rugby though, and broke the Bok’s first line of defence a little too easily. It was the excellent scrambled last line of defence from the likes of Habana, Fourie and Du Plessis that saved the Boks. That is a concern.

The Bok scrum was tremendous! Gurthro Steenkamp showed no ill effects from his broken arm and had an excellent game. Beast was awesome as an impact player. It’s amazing the confidence a good scrum gives to a side.

Bismarck du Plessis’ reaction to being hooked for John Smit, no matter the situation, was despicable. Sure he had enjoyed an excellent game, and had just been instrumental in sneaking a tighthead against the All Blacks, but what was he expecting – a full 80 minutes? That smacks of disharmony in the team, and management are going to have to sort that out quickly.

That said, Du Plessis’ performance really has smashed the old “What do the Boks do with John Smit” can of worms right open? The Boks proved yesterday that they can win without Smit as captain (Matfield both surprised and impressed me) and that the scrum certainly does not suffer without Smit (in fact, it could be argued that is enhanced). Difficult to argue against starting with Bismarck.

But then what does one do with Smit? He is no impact player. Could we see a Robbie Deans like late change in captaincy? I seriously doubt it, but this situation could impact on the Bok RWC campaign …

Heinrich Brussow was immense, and a deserved man of the match. His performance reignited my faith in the role of the fetcher. I have been pondering the notion of the breakdown being dominated by cleans and counter rucks, but when you have a player of the Brussow’s ability, the fetcher then gives a team an undeniable edge at the breakdowns. As John Eales said last week: “He gives the Boks the ability to play the modern fast paced game, even though as a team, they seem unable or unwilling to adopt this way of playing”.

Morne Steyn is the man who must play flyhalf for the Springboks. With this game plan of grabbing points when in the opposition half, not necessarily through tries, he is without doubt the man …

It’s a concern that the Boks are not scoring tries, or even looking likely to score tries. I get that it is RWC time and it’s all about just having more points than the opposition when the final whistle goes, but it’s not a game that will win you many fans. One can almost understand why people prefer to support the All Blacks, given their more attacking game.

Speaking of which, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the South African All Black and Springbok fans interacted throughout the weekend. It’s a complex issue that perhaps needs addressing by SARU, as these All Black fans feel let down by them, but with it being spoken about so much in the media recently, perhaps it is becoming less of an issue ?

A giant thanks to SuperSport for inviting me to be at the Test in PE with them. They have some pretty cool plans in place for their coverage of the World Cup, but more on that later in the week … It was a truly sensational weekend.