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Ken Borland

Time for the Springboks to ‘ruk reg!’ 0

Posted on October 18, 2022 by Ken

There is a wonderful saying in Afrikaans that is often used on the recalcitrant or the idle: they are told to ‘ruk julle reg!’.

It can be roughly translated as meaning ‘Shape up or ship out’ and fans watching the slide of the Springbok team towards mediocrity will no doubt be using it ahead of South Africa’s Rugby Championship match against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

While the wretched display in Adelaide last weekend means the players desperately need to take a big step up in terms of executing basic skills and decision-making, it is also the management who need to up their game and thereby elevate the standard of rugby the Springboks are producing on the pitch.

While there are critics who say they rick their necks watching the Springboks kick the ball sky-high all game, or fall asleep while watching them scrum or maul for penalties, these are valid tactics. But they should be used as a means to an end, and not an end in themselves.

Much as coach Jacques Nienaber may hate it, penalties are only worth three points and tries are worth five, seven if converted. Which is why Australia, despite conceding 16 penalties against just nine given away by South Africa, won comfortably last weekend, scoring three tries to two.

And it’s not as if these Springboks can’t play attacking rugby or can’t score tries. It’s just that they hide that ability away behind an ultra-conservative game-plan that puts so much emphasis on the build-up and the process that there is very little room for the sort of instinctive, opportunistic rugby that can actually create tries against a defence that is as good as the Wallabies’ shifting line was last weekend.

While it is scary to go into a Test in Sydney without such key injured players as Lukhanyo Am, Handre Pollard, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Elton Jantjies, I am actually excited to see how their replacements go.

Damian Willemse was so positive with ball-in-hand last weekend, but his team-mates were often on a different wavelength. Let’s hope he can bring control and direction to the game at flyhalf, as well as some of that offensive brilliance.

Jesse Kriel will be chomping at the bit to start at outside centre again, while Canan Moodie’s Test debut is a dream story for someone who wasn’t even in the Bulls’ URC squad at the start of last season.

What was especially disappointing last weekend was the number of Springbok attacks that ran aground on the Great Barrier that was Australia’s defensive reef, mostly due to poor execution or naïve strategies.

Better attacking plans need to be put in place in order to fully utilise the talent in this Springbok side. The Wallabies’ slingshot defence is well-known, they give teams space on the outside and usher them into touch, so it was especially disappointing to see the Springboks crabbing across the field like they did when Du Toit passed into touch. At the start of the move, from turnover ball, there had been a clear overlap.

An excellent show to watch when it comes to dissecting the Springboks’ performances is Owen Nkumane’s Final Whistle. Both Swys de Bruin and Nick Mallett, two great attacking coaches of previous South African teams, were in agreement that the current side’s offensive efforts have not passed muster.

Mostly because they seem to be waiting for the perfect moment to attack, instead of trying to engineer those opportunities with more ambitious play. So many chances were not used in the 22 perhaps because the players are not in a suitably positive, attacking mindset?

Beating the Wallabies in Australia has always been a torrid Test for the Springboks, and now they need to do it under pressure and with key injuries. They will need to show massive character.

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