Heyneke Meyer has made enormous progress with this Springbok side, and now it is time for the big reveal … Bok game plan vs All Black gameplan … Are the Boks really moving to a more ball in hand game asks Tank Lanning?
So we beat the Aussies by 20 points and not everyone is satisfied … that is both tremendous and extremely scary at the same time.
Tremendous in that such is our expectation of the Boks, that only the very best between the white lines will do, and if that means winning with a bonus point in order to put us on a more even footing for next week’s gargantuan clash against the old foe, then that is what we expect.
Scary in that if hammering the 4th best side in the world by 20 points is not good enough, then will a performance ever really be good enough to satisfy the rabid needs of us Springbok fans? In other words, can a coach ever really succeed?
Ironically, it was the absolutely sensational start that the Boks got at Newlands that created the bonus point expectation. If, like in the All Black game against Argentina, the Boks had had to work for their early tries and been scrambling for that 4th try in the final minutes, people would probably walked away thinking “Good effort, but unlucky” …
There was a fair amount of similarity to both games, though, in that both Australia and Argentina were pretty strong up front, especially come scrum time, and managed to spend a fair amount of the game with ball in hand. But not being effective enough on attack to cut the Bok and All Black defences, there were long periods of time when both games tended to meander a little.
Hence people wanting both sides to carry the ball more, because that is when the game becomes worth watching. And it is tremendously exciting to hear Bok coach Heyneke Meyer talking about wanting to play a more ball in hand kind of game.
I am not entirely sure that message has reached the players yet, though. Or perhaps they are just not confident enough to carry out such a game plan yet? When the game was crying out for a ball in hand approach (will a team ever get better platform than a 17-3 scoreline after 15 minutes), the Boks kicked an awful amount of ball away at Newlands, and a lot of it via poor kicks from Fourie du Preez. And perhaps that is the reason fans walked away feeling just a smidgen let down?
Both the All Blacks and the Boks received long kick ins to start their respective matches last Saturday … The Boks opted for the long raking touch finder to restart play in the Australian half, while the All Blacks took on the Argentinians with ball in hand, no matter that it started from inside their 22. It obviously makes them more vulnerable to turnovers out wide, but they seem happy to work with the mantra of “If they score a try, we must just score one more”.
Carrying the ball just seems to run more strongly in the Kiwi blood, but how that will pan out in the face of the world’s best defence and most aggressive and physical pack, only time will tell.
Heyneke Meyer has made enormous progress with this Springbok side. They are a side that do not only win games, but are starting to win them in entertaining fashion. To win with a bonus point at Ellis Park on Saturday will require the most complete Bok performance since readmission. Not out the question, but I would be happy with a plain old simple win.
This column first appeared on www.enca.com