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?