Watching South Africa play this year has been horrible, bar the first twenty-minute period in the second test versus England, we have seen this nation crippled by a one dimensional game plan, an uninspiring captain and a most importantly a coach who seems terribly out of his depth at this level.
Heyneke Meyer has talked about the team not even being near where he wants them to be. I disagree – this team has peaked already and now needs to be stripped back and rebuilt again. Playing to an outdated Bulls gameplan has proved that you can’t bully teams at international level anymore and simply kicking the ball away and applying pressure isn’t good enough to beat the other top nations in the world.
We all know that Pieter de Villiers was a purely political appointment by the Bok management and really Meyer should have been given that post, but the past is not to be dwelled upon. Meyer is now the coach of a team quickly becoming a laughing stock for its out-of-date tactics and conservative selections. In 2007 the Bok team was built around a near faultless lineout, a pack that could bully anybody and two potent wingers who, when given a sniff of an opportunity, would finish any chance. The tactical kicking of that team was superb, Fourie du Preez was (and still is) the best box kicker in the game, whilst Percy Montgomery was a fantastic kicker of goals.
South Africa have lost that consistency, and Morne Steyn is a shadow of his former self. His ability to run a game has always been in doubt but his goal-kicking was a sure thing – however, he has missed routine opportunities throughout the Rugby Championship this season.
Francois Hougaard is wasted at scrum half, where his elusive running is kept in check by opposition back rows and his box kicking is not up to his predecessor in the green and gold number nine jersey. Meyer was right to move him to the wing for some of the later tests this year but he has hardly seen the ball. Ruan Pienaar is a better scrum half for this side, and whilst he had an awful game against the All Blacks in Dunedin, I hope that Meyer persists with this selection.
What South Africa need to find is a balance between the type of game they play now and some penetrative running from their backs. For me, two players have to be reinstated to this team with others coming into the XV to add the necessary edge that is missing. Firstly Patrick Lambie has to be the Fly-Half going forward – his ability to run a game is already far beyond Steyn’s and he can also play flat, bringing his team mates onto the gain line around him.
Second and more importantly bring in Heinrich Brussow – he is an absolute dog on the ground and has the potential to be the best openside flank in the world. Meyer must give him a chance to play against McCaw or Pocock to show how much he can influence a game.
The management must also select a long term captain to lead this team up to and including the next World Cup. I suggest Bismarck du Plessis – a player who is sure of a starting position in this team and who always plays well for South Africa. Elsewhere the backs must be rejuvenated and encouraged to look for the ball and when given a solid platform by the forwards, to take that territory offered and run with the ball instead of kicking it away.
To these ends here is a team to play in the Autumn internationals with a new game plan successfully implemented (taking into consideration injuries to some player such as Spies and JP Pieterson).
Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis (c), Jannie du Pessis, Eben Etzebeth, Andries Bekker, Wilhelm Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Duane Vermeulen; Ruan Pienaar, Patrick Lambie, Francois Hougaard, Francois Steyn, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon
By Josh Kewell