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Monday, December 12, 2005



A DavidS counterfactual study in fear of failure.

Another Rugby World Cup and another failure for the Boks. Where did it go wrong again? We examine the roots of failure.

In 2004 the weight of expectation was on Jake White’s shoulders. He introduced a new system uniquely suited to Springbok play. The Rush Defence. In his view of history, Springbok rugby based its success on ferocious defence. He searched the world and discovered the complex defensive system Gary Gold and Brendan Venter developed for London Irish and adapted it for the Boks. And yet, it failed the greatest acid test. Amid celebrations in Australia (yet again) and the furore that lead to Jake White’s exit from SA Rugby following the Boks’ embarrassing exit in their quarter final clash against England, a team we have beaten once since 2000 we look at the roots of failure. This week we ask why?

Defence is not the only aspect of South African rugby that determined its past success

The Springbok teams of years past were ferocious defenders. That much is certain. One needs look only at our impressive record in the pre-isolation years to know that opposition teams paid dearly to points on the board. Joggie Jansen’s famous tackle is still celebrated as one of the greatest moments of Springbok rugby. Jake White is a superb analyst of the game. He should have known that defence was not the only moniker of success in South African rugby. Bok rugby of the past had an ethos of ferocious defence and an ethos of ferocious attack. We won because we scored money than our opponents. A study of the past would have shown Jake White that South Africa was known for its ferocious attacking. Players like Hennie Muller, Danie Craven, Mannetjies Roux, Frik Du Preez, Carel Du Plessis, Naas Botha, Danie Gerber, Hennie Le Roux and Bobby Skinstead became famous not because of their tackling. They became famous because they scored points. And ultimately in rugby tackles are aesthetically pleasing but they don’t put points on the board.

South Africa also has a more readying ethos of attacking their opposition. We have some of the greatest attacking forwards in the game. Our backline players would not seem out of place in a World XV for their attacking abilities.

Where was our attack?
In the early days of 2006, many started to question two things about the Jake White Boks. Where was their attack? And, what exact role did the assistant coaches perform. This came on the back of failure to perform against France. That failure was based on a lack of forward cohesiveness and a one dimensional attack. Jake White’s charges had been together for almost two years at that stage, yet they still showed a complete lack of cohesiveness on attack and were completely outclassed at breakdowns because of their failure to commit. Expert commentator of the world famous Ruggaworld, “Pissant” analyses for us:

The rush defence requires that the opposition players be pressured into playing to your strength in defence. This means your wings and centres come up quickly on defence, creating an umbrella on the field and forcing the opposition players to break inside to find space. This drives them to where your forwards are and they can then be brought down. The problem with the defence is that it requires your pack to be loose so that they can perform the defensive moves and therefore they do not commit to rucks and mauls, making the Boks weak in this department, because of their defensive requirements.

The Bok forwards could not commit to attacking at the rucks and mauls, a traditional strength, given people like Wahl Baartman and Theuns Stofberg of the past. They were forced to ‘hang back’ to defend and not attack the opposition mauls and rucks. This gave our opponent forwards virtually free reign at the breakdowns. This ‘hang back’ attitude also affected our ability to create attacking options as the attack called for a change of a mindset incessantly drilled into the Boks that the forwards were the key to the defensive system. As a result we were always out muscled at the rucks because our forwards could not or did not commit. With our players not cleaning out rucks we were always going to be dominated at this vital area of our attack.

Our one dimensional attack and lack of flair
The French are famous for their flair. But flair for the outrageous has always been a Springbok trait too. Looking at teams of the past, we can see the amazing try that one the 1st test against the 1980 Lions started with Rob Louw carrying the ball from his own quarter line. The 1956 Lions tasted the wrath of Mannetjies Roux from the halfway line. The 1981 All Blacks knew all about Ray Mordt and Naas Botha in the last test and their penchant for the outrageous. In more recent times we’ve had rugby geniuses with a flair for the outrageous like Pieter Rossouw and Brent Russel. Percy Montgomery, the vintage version, not Jake White’s ‘improved’ version also had this flair. Bobby Skinstead was the forward with the most flair of recent times.

The Jake White Boks have none of this attacking flair. Consistently, we’ve seen players with a flair for the unusual, like Johan Roets, Brent Russel, Richard Bands, and Wayne Julies sidelined. Bryan Habana has had the flair coached out of him and he is a shadow of the player that burst onto the scene in 2004 with all the gifts to become a magnificent big name player. Pissant again:

The Jake White Springboks have just a few attacking options and our opponents cleverly noticed these and played exactly onto them. The first is the first receiver drive. In this, Joe Van Niekerk receives the ball from the scrumhalf and tries to drive it up. Our opponents were ointo this trick in the 2004 Northern Hemisphere tour already when Joe Van Niekerk regularly failed to make ground from here. The second was the inside centre short pass. In this, outside centre Jacque Fourie would run at an angle and Jean De Villiers would hand him a short pass that he took at speed. This worked in 2005, but by 2006 our opponents were onto it. It was a shock tactic and worked only when your opponents were not expecting it. Our opponents simply flooded the inside centre channel with defenders. So much so that in this world cup we conceded two intercept tries from this play. The third was the wide play. This is reserved for the rare turnover. Here the ball is quickly skipped to Bryan Habana while our opponents try to organise an attacking line to a defensive one. Once at Habana, he relies on his pace to win a race to the tryline. This happens very rarely, because we don’t turn over that much possession. There is no real defence against this because Habana will always win a straight line race against an opponent.

The way forward
The Australians have won it for a record third time. No doubt the All Blacks are thinking of the ‘four more year’ syndrome after they choked in the semi-finals against their old foe again. The Australians proved that they are the Phoenix of world rugby again after arising from the ashes of a disastrous 2004 to become world beaters again. England will be ruing their staid boring play in the light of the way France ran them ragged in the semi-final. And as the dying embers of Sydney’s celebration fires what do we do about Bok rugby.

Firing Jake White and his assistants, especially Gert Smal is a step in the right direction. White has proven that he is a reactive coach. One who looks at what his opponents do and plans accordingly. He does not plan to beat opponents. Instead his plans are based on fear of what his opponents can do. It is based on preventing the opposition from scoring and not on ensuring the Boks outscore their opponents. Yes, there is a difference. One is part of a tactic, and the other the aim of the game. Cane you tell which is which?

Gert Small, who destroyed the WP forward play and failed miserably to make the Stormers a good forward unit in the early part of the century, has managed to do the same to the Boks and his departure, reminiscent of the of Rudolph Straueli is a relief to most fans.

Newly appointed coach, Pieter De Villiers has named Rassie Erasmus and Carel Du Plessis as his assistant coaches. De Villers, who coached the Spears to a first Currie Cup semi-final onhis first try and managed a credible 5th position in the Southern Spears’ first Super 14 competition minced no words when he held his first press conference and took a swipe at the departing White, saying: “There are no such things as team weaknesses that you need to plan for. A Bok team that is weak in facets of its game play is a failing of the coaching staff, not the team. In South Africa we have all the best players in the world. A Bok team should have no weaknesses. My team and I will prove this to our opponents and the fans in the next four years. I am confident we can take Bok rugby back to the top where it belongs."

Meanwhile, the All Blacks will be hoping that the home advantage of 2011 finally breaks the drought of the past twenty years.

And what about Pieter De Villiers? Time will tell. Time alone will tell.

This is DavidS, for Ruggaworld in France.
DavidS is a BOERE THUG!!!

Oh, and DRAGONS!!!




I dunno anyhthing about IT and I managed to follow Kandas' instructions and do it right first time!!!!

The Aus thread was not a KF, it was a PAism....
Yes Davids but it was Kandas' fault!

Anyway, good article, here's hoping that JW reads it and wakes up. We need natural attackers as well as brilliant defense in the Boks. LOL at your 2006 CC and 2007 Super14 prediction!
Howsit wpw, have you managed to find your Long lost grandfather, Hendrik Verwoerd yet? And have you purchased your Bulls jersey yet you dog you?  
aldo, jy soek mos nou bollie ne? LOL

I'm cool. was sea sick on friday when we had our end of yr function... I hated every flippin minute of it... I'm not a drinker but it felt like i was kotsing cos i had too much dop...

How's the boere thugging thing going? And how your uncle, Eugene Terblanche?
PA, I'm in your camp!! Tried a post but it came out the full version instead of an introductory paragraph. I even used the HTML button :-(

Very valid points, DavidS, and enjoyably laid out!

Let's hope you don't get to post it again in 2007 saying, "I told you so, I told you so!"

2006 will show us whether Jake can be flexible or is he rigid with fear about changing a formula that returns a 67% success rate and a home win against the AB's?
Read the thread before this one... think it is about Sharks...
wpw, I see my uncle (Eugene Tereblanche) is giving a speech on church square this Friday, it's called (and I quote) "'n Volksvergadering". I wonder what that will be about! ;-) I think we should send Stan to be our inside man and report on procedings. He's probably going to be there anyway!  
world famous rugga world analyst PissAnt - LOL

tx davids.

very good arti. yeah lets hop JW wakes up and we see a different approach come 2006.

Ja, I'm counterfactualising that we're bigger than keo by 2007!!!!!
well the arti's are better already!!!!!  

Dont worry I am busy sorting out the article.
Good post DavidS

So- who had won the S14 2006 and who gets relegated?

Jy weet mos, Bulls 2006 S14 champs and the Guppies gets relegated.
Lol Aldo- klaar gelunch?  

Hoe moeilik dink jy is dit om 'n Rush defence en 'n meer normale een in dieselfde game te he?
Yip OO, klaar gelunch  
Well, I'm buggered if I know how to post under the new regime.

I've left an article in the drafts folder. I'd appreciate it if one of you boffins could have a look and see where I'm going wrong.
lol Rasp


Ek sal daarna kyk.

What is a more likely senario.......
Smal getting the boot.
Spears finishing 5th.
Australia winning a 3rd.
Me getting called up to play flyhalf for the Boks.
None of the above.

I'd back myself.

PS: Before everybody praises Rassie Erasmus too much, he is also seemingly a "reactive strategist".But at least he has imagination.

what i did is when in the post page, before you replace any text, go to the html tab. the text there which says place article intro here, paste your opening paragraph there without deleting any <> characters and stuff. and where it says place the rest of the article here do the same.

once you did that go out of html editor to the other simpler one and edit your text size and picture.
Thanks, PA

Basically what I did was bring up your 'Vote' post and copy what you did. Seems to have come out okay, the only thing I need to work on is toggling between HTML & Compose.

When I pasted everything into HTML and toggled to Compose all that came up was the introduction paragraph and some squiggles at the bottom!

Be careful

If Meyer Bosman can be called from FS never know.

Did I teach you a new buzzword?
St Pete

go to, I'd like to get your view on the Bulls, I did an article on next year.
This is a great piece of work and - I think - also the correct analysis re our pattern of not really committing forwards at the rucks and mauls.
Just spotted an anachromism:
It was the 1955 Lions, not 1956 (which was Basie Viviers' tour to NZL).
And Mannetjies Roux only started playing in 1960. The hero of the '55 series was Tom van Vollenhoven for his hat trick at Newlands.
I dont know how to log in yet so let me just post a comment.Great site.Keo I reckon there is trouble brewing bru.Good articles and the contributers arent even journos.The picture of Stmichel and Tackler is flattering to say the least.O ja Tackler I will land in Christchurch on Sat 17 Dec 11:50 am.Hope to meet you,just wanna hand deliver a care package.As soon as I have a cell number there I will post it and you can contact me.If I dont post again to the rest I just wanna wish you a a safe holiday and a blessed Xmas.
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