Ireland a hiccup. Boks must keep on trucking

With all change comes the odd hiccup, says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column, but the Boks definitely need to keep on trucking with their ball in hand, attacking game.

Losing to the Six Nations champions in their own back yard is no crime, especially given how well the Irish played at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening. They were full of passion, aggressive at the breakdown and in the collision, and above all, tactically very smart indeed.

How badly the Boks were beaten, both physically and intellectually, and thus on the scoreboard, does require some proper introspection though. They were flat, probably a little ring rusty, complacent having believed all the media hype, and worryingly, wanted it less than the home side.

Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but I have no doubt in my mind that the Boks will get the physical side of things right at Twickenham on Saturday, and for that reason, I would have given the same starting XV another run.

Whether they can get it together in a week to play a smarter game, though, is what the result will hinge on. And perhaps that is where Heyneke Meyer is hoping the 5 swop outs will help. Again, though, I would have given the same team another bite at the cherry.

That game stats are fairly illuminating:

Kicks from hand: 27-18
Meters run: 237-321
Clean breaks: 3-4
Carries: 68-115
Defenders beaten: 14-24
Passes: 79-124
Offloads: 0-6
Tackles: 128-68
Possession: 43%-57%
Territory: 38%-62%

Illuminating in that the Bok stats are in the second column! Yep, they did all the running, and tried to make the play, yet failed fairly spectacularly!

A few short months ago, with Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn at the helm, these numbers would have been the other way round.

I have been leading the charge for a change to a more ball in hand, heads up, attacking brand of rugby, so am delighted to see these stats. But this type of game comes with 3 pretty damn important provisios:

1 – You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Ball in hand does not mean you stop kicking completely. The All Blacks kick the most out of all international sides, yet are known for their attacking brand of rugby. It’s how and when you kick that counts. Johnny Sexton and the Irish gave the Boks a masterclass on Saturday.

2 – You not only have to dominate the primary phases like scrums, lineouts and kickoffs, but also the breakdown and collisions. The Boks were owned by the Irish in these two departments. Enter Schalk Burger, but Eben Etzebeth needs to be more of a factor here.

3 – Ball in hand requires industrial conditioning, proper skills, and a low error rate. Against the Irish, the Boks missed 14 tackles, knocked on 10 times and made 13 handling errors. Game over against a side kicking so astutely.

The Boks are on the right path, though. With all change comes the odd hiccup. They need to keep on trucking.

In closing, perhaps a comment on how the Irish negated one of the Bok’s biggest weapons, the driving maul from a lineout. Bold, and not without risk, the Irish chose to disengage completely, turning what I call legalised obstruction into what it should be, illegal truck and trailer!

Risky in that the jumper could come down and make free yards with ball in hand. But that is how it should be. Allowing the player who has ripped the ball from the jumper to “Swim” to the back of the maul is what gets me about the driving maul. Defenders are not allowed to do it, so why should attacking players be allowed to do it? Make the attacking team include the skill of having to pass or move the ball to the back of the maul and it becomes a fairer contest.

That the Boks did not have an answer to this Irish tactic is a little concerning. I am sure they have one now, not that we will get to see it against a more physical English side happy to take on the Bok driving maul on Saturday, though


  1. Agree with you. I had the feeling during the first half that we were in control and just needed that one pass to stick in order to get the score board rolling-which never happened. Concerning that the experienced players as Bismarck en Schalk give away penalties at crucial moments. Etsebeth has also been quite the past three games and lack some fire in his performance. I think Pollard is being punished for Hougaard’ slow and poor performance. I am also worried about our front row-I think Jannie and Beast at times struggled and England put in some good srums agains the AB ‘S. I think we may be in for a long 80 min on Saturday.
    Credit to Ireland who was the clever team on the field on the day.
    Boks, please prove me wrong!

  2. Jeez…finally someone thats talking sense. All the SA Rugby guys are saying ditch the running game after one badish game…remember when the AB’s lost in 2009??
    Hope we keep on focusing on our game…the rest will come

  3. Agree Tank, my thoughts:-

    – As we all know, doing all the running, as the stats and outcome suggest, is not necessarily the key to winning in N Hemisphere conditions. Sometimes there is an advantage in not having the ball. Ask Ireland. Ask the 2007 Boks.

    – As the RWC will be played … ahem … in the N Hemisphere, it is concerning that HMeyer has not displayed a winning strategy thus far. Especially as he has coached over here. Or perhaps it is kidology and he is keeping his Twickers strategy close to his chest ?

    – It maddens me to hear about admissions of Bok lack of intensity in Dublin. WTH?! This EOYT tour was a great chance for the Boks to put down a RWC marker, so it is worrying that they could not summon the requisite attitude to dominate, or at least have parity in, the collisions and at the breakdown last Saturday.

    – For a long spell up to 2006 we London souties got used to the EOYT being a bit of a car-crash for the Boks, especially at Twickenham in those days. For one thing the talent available to SA then was very ordinary if not dreadful, and secondly the players seemed to treat the EOYT as a last run out before hitting Clifton, not as test rugby. By contrast, this is a talented Bok squad, with expectations high for next year’s RWC.

    – Whilst I concede Hougaard is a warrior with a big heart, whose tackling and try-scoring has contributed to Bok success in past years, I am afraid he is only ever going to be a very average and limited international s/half. Below par catching and passing, and the timing of his passing is laboured and predictable, making it easy for defences to defend against. They watch him wind up and time their defensive rush accordingly, so we get hit behind the gainline.

    – Why do the Boks go off their feet so much at the breakdown? Coetzee, Bismarck and JduP especially. Is it a Durban thing? In SE London we coach our U13s to stay on their feet and hold a firm position just beyond the ball. Is it a tactic to slow down opp ball perhaps, to put the opp 9 off clearing? I also see the All Blacks piling over a lot, but obviously they have immunity from penalties by virtue of being God’s gift to rugby, having Richie as their captain, and all refs being scared of them. The Boks at least need to know their place. On their feet.

    – I hear Pierre Spies is getting over his injury. Oh God, surely not …

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