Half empty … or Half full?

To my mind, there are two ways to look at the Bok scenario after their scarily close and lucky win over a young Welsh side …

Glass half empty: The Boks are playing a dated style of rugby using long in the tooth war horses held together by Elastoplast …

Glass half full: The Boks held off a good Welsh side playing a similar style of rugby by subduing them using the run on team and then using the bench effectively in the last 20 minutes …

Clearly Peter de Villiers and John Smit have taken the latter view, but they are paid to do so … No matter the state of the glass, I do think Div and his coaching staff deserve credit for how they used the bench though. Even with Matfield off injured, they were still prepared to take Smit from the field, and that has to be seen as a lesson learnt. The bench, and how it’s used, is key to the success of any modern day rugby side.

Perhaps this is an indication as to the dip in value being attached to the Bok skipper though? And of course it begs the question as to whether a few of those splinter gatherers should have been in the Bok starting lineup in the first place?

The Boks got off to a sensational start when full back Frans Steyn scored in the right corner after they had held onto the ball for four minutes. Morné Steyn converted for to make it 7-0.

And then it basically went pear shaped for an hour! The Welsh held onto the ball like their lives depended on it, and the Bok defence creaked when tested, especially in the flyhalf channel.

In the 15th minute James Hook looked to have landed a penalty, but the touch judges waved it away. Minutes after scoring, Toby Faletau made a storming burst down the middle and passed to Jonathan Davies, only for the outside centre to knock on going for the line. Rhys Priestland failed with a close drop goal attempt and in the 72nd minute Hook missed a difficult penalty attempt …

Francois Hougaard saved the day with a try in the 65th minute, but the Boks were lucky …

No one can claim to be surprised at the Bok game plan, and the questions that were always going to need answering were whether the game plan could still work 4 years on, and whether the personnel selected could implement said game plan?

Well, the jury has to be out on both. But it’s far too late to change the former, and with the 30 players already selected, it’s pretty damn tricky to change the latter.

Two players that simply have to start, though, are Hougaard and Bismarck du Plessis.

Glaringly shaky on the day were Fourie du Preez (swoon), John Smit, Morne Steyn, Jannie du Plessis, JP Pietersen, Butch James and Pierre Spies, while Bryan Habana was a spectator.

I would make the following changes:

Drop Smit out of the 22, start Bismarck, and have Chilliboy on the bench
Drop Spies, move Schalk Burger to 8 (and make him captain), and bring in Francois Louw
Drop Morne Steyn and play Lambie at flyhalf
Drop Habana and play Hougaard on the wing

With Matfield and De Villiers out injured (more below), Muller will play at lock with Rossouw, and I would bring in Juan de Jongh at centre.

Du Preez and Pietersen deserve more time to play themselves into form, and Willem Alberts needs to remain on the bench as a vital impact player.

I would bet my house on Smit not moving anywhere given that Matfield is out, which is sad, and to have all those changes at 8, 10 and 12 is probably too extreme for this group of coaches … There is, of course, an understandable school of thought that is calling for consistancy in selection, thus allowing the team to develop.

As you might have picked up from the suggested changes, though, I am seeing the glass as needing a refill …

Meanwhile … The IRB have ruled on using the TMO to help with kicks:

Under protocol, the Referee may consult the Assistant Referees or the Television Match Official if he is unsure as to whether a penalty kick, drop goal or conversion has been successful.

During the SA vs Wales match the match officials felt at the time that there was no need to consult the TMO following a Wales penalty kick as they were confident that the kick was not successful. Correct protocol was therefore followed.

Victor Matfield and Jean De Villiers to miss Fiji clash

Matfield and De Villiers will remain with the team, but need ten days rehabilitation. Jean de Villiers has a grade one rib cartilage sprain and Victor Matfield has a tight hamstring.

They join Bakkies Botha on the injury list, who’s rehabilitation continues while he remains with the team. Botha trained in the gym with the non-playing members of the squad today, while the match 22 was given a day to recover. The team returns to field training in Wellington on Tuesday.

So what will the coaches do?



  1. I would bet my house on Smit not moving anywhere given that Matfield is out, which is sad, and to have all those changes at 8, 10 and 12 is too extreme for this group of coaches …

    Yes, it would seem so. A pity as I’ve always thought Smit and one or two of the other old warriors could play a role similar to that of Lawrence Dallaglio and co. for England in the RWC2007 (or even Mike Catt in 2003)… Experienced players coming off the bench in the last 20-10min to close out the game.

    Everyone has this obsession with the bench being used for “impact”, but a) You really don’t want to be trailing in the last quarter anyway, and b) Cool heads at the death is arguably a more valuable resource to have on your bench (especially in the knockout stages of a World Cup).

  2. you want to change to many things and in a world cup ? Tsk tsk. Butch must start at flyhalf. Wales attacked that channel with morne there and succeded. Frans steyn will have to move to centre and play lambie at fullback as a specialist kicker. That leaves the question of willem alberts ? bismark must also start with smith on the bench

  3. Why not bring in Alberts for Spies, instead of Louw, and agree with all your other changes and defiantly make the schulk captain.

    WRT Injuries, would you not bring in F Steyn at centre and Lambie at the back, keeping our goal kicker in place?

    1. I just think Alberts is a legendary bench man, who can do a lot of destruction against a tiring side. I also do not think he is an 8th man, having seen him struggle at 8 for the Sharks.

      And yes, I could live with F Steyn at centre and Lambie at the back. Perhaps a more prudent selection. But Lambie at 10 with De Jongh outside him would make for great ball in hand stuff …

  4. Half Full:

    I have to agree with your sentiments around the lackluster performance from some (if not most) of the Boks this past Sunday.

    Not taking anything away from a fired up Welsh side that came to the game with only one intention in mind, and that was to upset the world champions. The fact that we were extremely lucky to get away with 4 points in this match is not negotiable. Further more I hope that all speculations or conspiracy theories surrounding the fact that the Boks wanted to throw the game in order to miss a very likely clash against the hosts in the semi finals were nullified –

    Nothing can be taken away from the Boks in the first 7 minutes of the match. They looked like the team we all “once” new, a team so hungry for success that they had all intentions of quickly silencing their most outspoken critics. However the pattern of the match changed for most of the rest of the game. The Welsh Dragons played like their name suggest, a fierce beast that came to devour their prey.

    However, the Boks bounced back and surprised all of us by a well worked move that saw Hougaard scoring under the sticks. The fact that the Welsh were unlucky to loose remains questionable in my books. Perhaps this phrase should read something like: “The Welsh lost against themselves”

    The role of a sound goal kicker in a test match is unquestionable – he is there to make sure the scoreboard ticks over when opportunities presents itself. However, a phrase that we all learned to know that great defense wins matches remains true. The first line of defense came under severe attack and in most cases I believe that the Boks failed miserably. One player in particular stood out like a sore finger – Morne Steyn. His miss tackle on Toby Faletau resulted in the try that we all thought , ten minutes from time, was the last nail in the Boks’ coffin. I have to confess that I was one of those people that gave up hope when we were trailing 16-10, a typical South African why of thinking, especially the way the Welsh were on attack for most of the match, made worse by our rather lackluster attacks.

    However, the scoreboard in this case tells the story – we won, and that is the way the history books will be written. I would also make several changes to the staring line up for our next “essential” clash against the Fijians.

    My starting 15:

    15. Gio Aplon
    14. JP Pietersen
    13. Jacques Fourie
    12. Frans Steyn
    11. Francois Hougaard
    10. Patric Lambie
    9. Fourie du Preez
    8. Fracois Louw
    7. Schalk Burger
    6. Heinrich Brussow
    5. Johan Muller
    4. Danie Rossouw
    3. Jannie du Plessis
    2. Bismark du Plessis
    1. Beast Mtawarira

    16. John Smit
    17. Gurthro Steenkamp
    18. Pierre Spies
    19. Willem Alberts
    20. Juan de Jong
    21. Brian Habana
    22. Butch James

    1. Yes, there are without doubt positives to be seen from the Boks, as you rightly point out, and I see Martin Johnson also feels the same way, given that England had a similar experience in round 1.

      I am also a fan of the 4/3 split on the bench, but then CJ has to be the prop on the bench as he can play both sides. Tough on Gurthro, but to my mind, worth the versatility.

      That is a fairly extreme backline, that I like a lot. But just having Steyn’s experience at the back might give the newbies some confidence, and De Jongh at centre is exciting …

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