Despite making the biggest clanger of the day – it was a true schoolboy error to sub both Du Plessis brothers before that scrum – sentiment toward both Heyneke Meyer and the team remains – rightfully – largely positive.
The Boks lose to the All Blacks at home to make it 4 losses in a row to the old foe under the new(ish) coach, and the biggest clanger of the day – a true schoolboy error – comes from the coach himself, yet still the sentiment toward both the coach and team is largely positive …
And rightly so!
I believe we have, on the whole, an educated and enlightened rugby fan base here in South Africa, who want to see a game plan that has evolved from the 10 man rugby it became famous for, to one that sees the team looking to actually score tries with ball in hand.
Hence the Western Cape base becoming very restless with their team’s ultra defensive gameplan, even though it was resulting in Super Rugby semi finals.
Hence rugby fans becoming frustrated with SuperSport’s pom pom girl supporter type analysis, until the arrival of “Call it as you see it” Nick Mallett, who has proved to be their shining light.
Hence people in South Africa supporting the All Blacks because they play a more entertaining brand of rugby (and please do not get me wrong, I know this issue runs a lot deeper, but there are without doubt a group of people who do support the All Blacks only for this reason).
So to bear witness to a Test match of that calibre, where the Springbok intent to score tries was clearly visible, and to have come so very close to beating what is without doubt the best side in world rugby right now, seems to have resonated well with SA fans.
And coach Heyneke Meyer deserves credit for that, as does the team (especially captain Jean de Villers – who is playing the greatest rugby of his career right now). I have given the coach some real stick for his “Structure the unstructured” play to the playbook game plan and very conservative selections, but having been in the job for a while now, he seems more confident, and thus more inclined to start allowing the team to express themselves a little.
And long may it continue.
So now that I have talked the coach up … Back to his clanger of all clangers … How could he possibly believe that substituting two thirds of the front row before a massive scrum on the All Black line, with the Boks having 8 to the All Blacks 7 due to the Liam Messam yellow card, to be a good move?
Juandre Kruger certainly did not like the idea as he implored to coach to give the starting pack one more scrum, and Bismarck du Plessis was quite clearly not ready to depart the scene, needing the assistant referee to guide him away from the touchline. And they were right.
So instead of dominating the scrum, the Boks managed only to survive it (this despite the 8 vs 7 advantage), and under pressure, they coughed up the ball out wide in the face of what was a magnificent 80 minutes of defence from the visitors. All Blacks off the hook …
I wish I knew where Meyer gets his confidence in Coenie Oosthuizen as a tighthead prop. I really do. Because I have not seen anything to instil such confidence. Perhaps he was hoping to appease the public pressure by giving him a chance in a numerically advantageous scrum? My oath, I hope note, but it is very very difficult to fathom a reason for the timing of the substitution.
And as it turned out, much of Oosthuizen’s time on the field was against a 7 man All Black pack because Ben Franks also took yellow for a swinging arm. So yet again we have no definitive answer re his ability as a tighthead at the highest level. But that should change on the end of year tour …
There is no way Jannie du Plessis should tour. He is so incredibly vital to the Springbok cause, hence his starting every single game. But he needs, and deserves, a proper off-season. So if Meyer truly believes that Oosthuizen is our second best tighthead prop, it is time to put that to the test by starting him in the games against Wales, Scotland and France. It is only fair on the player that he be given a chance to prove the coach’s faith in him correct.
This column first appeared on www.enca.com