Legendary Springbok flyhalf Naas Botha says he is concerned that he is not seeing Handre Pollard empowered with more decision-making responsibility in the Springbok team ahead of the World Cup.
While Botha said he was encouraged by the style of play produced by the Springboks in the last two weeks against Australia and New Zealand, both games were ultimately lost and he said better decision-making would have avoided the final-quarter fade-outs.
At the start of the final quarter against the All Blacks, South Africa laid siege to the try-line against 14 men and yet couldn’t score, with Damian de Allende, who had spent the whole match bumping tacklers off, standing unused in the backline.
“We saw that we have enough talent last weekend, but we couldn’t get over the final hurdle in the last two games. The performance against the All Blacks was totally different to what we’ve seen over the last few years, but it should have happened two years ago. Under pressure, we just need to calm down, especially in the last 10 minutes.
“But I feel strongly that the flyhalf should be empowered more. In that crucial period when we just couldn’t cross their tryline, he should make the call to change the game plan because just going to the forwards wasn’t working. But too often the ball is not going to a decision-maker, in that zone you just need to relax and allow someone to take the lead and 99% of the time that should be the flyhalf,” Botha said on Wednesday at the launch of Creative Rugby, a book he has collaborated on with Dr Kobus Neethling, an expert in the field of creative behaviour.
“Handre is a fantastic player, the Bulls’ season hurt him in terms of his confidence, but we saw last weekend that he’s getting that back, his play was good. We’re fortunate to have him, but I’d like to see him take more control. Instead of the scrumhalves kicking up-and-unders from our 22, the ball should go to him to kick long because you don’t want to play in your own half,” Botha added.
The undisputed king of flyhalf play in the 1980s said if South African rugby in general could start thinking creatively rather than going “overboard on game plans”, then the Springboks would once again be world-beaters.
“The All Blacks scored a creative try to win the Test, that 74th-minute lineout has to be called creative, and the first thing we do is question the legality with Law such-and-such. All international players are equally strong and fast these days, what makes you better then is what you have between the ears. Our players just need to play what is in front of them more.
“We need to think differently. In South Africa, if a team wins they say it’s because they stuck to the game plan, then if they lose it’s because they didn’t stick to the game plan. But great players become bad players because of game plans. You can’t just rock up without a plan, but that should just be a guide, we tend to go overboard on game plans.
“Five years later we’re still doing what worked before, we’re stuck while everybody else has moved on. We have to start thinking differently and think outside the box,” Botha said.