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Arlecchino

South Africa's brand of rugby

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April Fool's Day is on Friday and the best joke has already been played on us - Allister Coetzee is about to be confirmed as the Springbok Coach.

What are the Guptas thinking of, he is a proven incompetent.

Coetzee helped Jake White coach the Springboks but as a former scrumhalf, he was the backs coach. Unable to galvanise this set of backs, White called in an Australian/Japanese hooker. In a couple of short sessions Eddie Jones had sparked this team into a World beating group. Eddie Jones almost as much as Kitch Christie had done in 1995, belatedly transformed our rugby and we won our second Rugby World Cup.

Last season the Western Province announced that they were getting rid of Coetzee after a couple of, at best, mediocre seasons. In truth they were heading in a very definite direction - down the log. Sadly they are not alone in the South African Conference. The once proud Bulls franchise is stuck in a brand of rugby which does not hack it anymore as are The Sharks. The Free State simply cannot afford to keep their best players.

The Sharks are even more disappointing because of the hope that the appointment of John Smit along with Brendan Venter initially brought. The sacking of John Plumtree was sad, but frankly it was badly handled and at the same time necessary. Plum had just not produced the goods. A couple of Currie Cups and finals in the Super Rugby Competition does not make a success story.

Then came the appointment of Jake White which was followed by his untimely departure. What is going on howled the fans?

Stories of player power were being leaked. Keegan Daniel was treated disrespectfully by a clique in the dressing room who leaked that he was anti-Afrikaans. At the same time a number of very strange acquisitions were made, not least of which was overweight prop Matt Stevens.

The appointment of new Director of Rugby Gary Gold was strange to outsiders for many reasons. Gold was clearly either misinformed or misled or else himself misunderstood the terms of his contract. How that is possible is mystifying. Surely an agent and the man himself went through a process which clearly defined his role? It seemed not! Why not remains a mystery. Then of course there was his background and in particular the nature of his leaving Bath which is unclear. That apart, his collective failure along with fellow Springbok Coaches de Villiers and Muir did nothing to inspire his appointment to what was once regarded as the prime appointment in domestic rugby.

The season that ensued served only to confirm what many feared, that nobody at The Sharks apart from the fabled Murphy, knew what was going on.

To attempt to get things back on track, Smit found a way to get Robert du Preez (former CEO of Mr Price) who was working as the coach of university team Pukke to come back to the team he once played for with some distinction. Again the information that came out of the camp was that du Preez would be the coach of the Currie Cup squad whilst "learning the ropes of Super Rugby" under Gary Gold who would continue as both Director of Rugby and coach of the Super Rugby squad.

How this team will cope with the disappointment of last season and the entitled expectancy of The Sharks management and fanbase is yet to fully unfold. Two wins and a draw against local opposition and then an eye-opening loss to The Crusaders is not inspiring. The loss to The Crusaders was revealing when placed under the microscope. The statistics indicate a defensive battle which it was and the scoreline was flattered by two intercept tries by the impressive Lwazi Mvovo. The Crusaders applied consistent pressure and The Sharks cracked.

Returning to the top job in South African Rugby, unfortunately Gary Gold like Allister Coetzee is stuck in a time warp influenced by the style of Jake White. White's style is to be defensive and to play a territorial game. For that you need massive offensive tacklers and astute kickers. The man who has the greatest responsibility is the man wearing the 10 shirt. He has to be aided by a shrewd, protective scrumhalf, a very good hooker, an eighth man who knows all of the skills of this technical position and a fullback who can support his flyhalf.

The ball must be placed in the opposition’s defensive quarter and kept there by chasers who are able to pressure receivers by tackling or just by mistake under pressure. Then the ball must be retained in set piece play and recycled through phases until the opposition defense cracks and points are scored. Whether by try or penalty does not matter to the coach.

This brand of rugby is not modern or attractive. It is about territory and the retention of the ball at set piece. In addition it requires the aforementioned tacklers to be performing at better than 90% and ensuring tackles are made on defenders who are unable to get the ball back to, or across the ad line. The pressure mounts simply because the defending forwards are continually running backwards and the backs are being given bad ball.

Allister Coetzee will continue with this brand as will Gary Gold - they simply do not know how to coach at the level of Steve Hansen or the plethora of New Zealand coaches who have a stranglehold on all of the most important coaching jobs in modern rugby. That is except for the England job which is held by the very astute Eddie Jones.

The brand of rugby which emerged last season as played by the All Blacks was about an enormous leap in fitness levels and the capacity to play support rugby all over the park. Players could not only handle the ball from 1-15 but could do so without losing the ball even in traumatic contact. Ball in hand rugby is not without kicking, it is about supporting astute kicks into space and then applying immediate enormous pressure on defensive structures.

Through a mutual friend, I learned that a prominent convertee to the Blitzbokke had been put through a relearning process in order to run at full pace and to be able to execute the sidestep. This in its own microcosm is staggering information. A Springbok player has seldom got up to full pace and has forgotten the art of getting past an opponent.

Indeed this is a pointer to the brand of rugby being coached by all South African mentors. Start a run when you get the ball and run over the opponent.

For the longest time I have been yelling at my TV screen – someone make a run at the gainline and get the scrumhalf to pass him the ball at full tilt. Run on the angle and force the tackler on to his wrong foot. Simple basics – sadly forgotten.

Neither Gary Gold nor Allister Coetzee will be able to ignite South African rugby. Had Eddie Jones stayed with Western Province, he may have been able to get coaches in South Africa to rethink their outdated brand of rugby.

We will never know.

 

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Hoskins must go and probably will, just to be replaced by someone worse. Our whole structure is wrong and I can't see a way to fix it. The good administrators will nearly never have the popular vote. Our whole system is corrupt to the core and they only way that's going to change is when society as a whole changes for the better. I just don't see it happening soon, if ever.

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18 hours ago, Arlecchino said:

Eddie Jones stayed with Western Province, he may have been able to get coaches in South Africa to rethink their outdated brand of rugby.

Bit harsh on Ackermann.

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It was a general statement. At the same time, whilst you are making supportive noises as do many of us, Ackerman is still to show us that he can win something in a fully competitive competition.

Before you get all het up and hot under the collar, we must remember that the Currie Cup is coached in many provinces by a different set of coaches and with different personnel.

Ackerman has to do better than just quite well in Super Rugby. Remember he did not win the SA Conference last year, Coetzee did. 

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Which is why I detest generalisations.

Why would I get het up? IIRC the Lions finished 2nd last year. And that was with no Springboks.

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We all acknowledge that the Lions were maligned when it came to Bok selection and Meyer's instinctive dislike for anything on the other side of the Jukskei so that is no yardstick. The entire Lions frontrow deserved to be at RWC 2015. So too did Kriel and Mostert who was the best lock in the country and would have been my blindsider instead of the injured Alberts.

Meyer was stupid because he did not trust what was right in front of him and he defied logic by taking at least 3 players who medically were not qualified to be on the plane in terms of SASCOC's own rules.

Everybody knows that I would put Ruan Combrinck on a Bok teamsheet as would I Faf du Plessis.

But I reiterate that Ackerman has a way to go yet and I bet he would be the first to agree. Secondly, second is nowhere.

 

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Everyone would agree that Ackermann has someway to go.

i mentioned the 2nd position as a measure of their improvement. Quite frankly winning the SA conference is nowhere. Once again IIRC the Stormers would not have qualified for the playoffs if the only criterion was the overall log position.

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