Boks are a team in crisis

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The Boks were generally terrible in their defeat to Argentina in Salsa on Saturday night, and most saddening for their supporters is that the players seemed leaderless, rudderless and bereft of conviction as to how they want to play the game.

SuperSport analysts Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Ashwin Willemse, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha were concerned that the Boks are now regularly losing Test matches that they would have expected to routinely win in previous eras.

The Boks have lost twice to Argentina in just over a year; to Japan in the World Cup last year; and in June, for the first time on South African soil, to Ireland.

While there is sympathy for coach Allister Coetzee in that he has had to start from scratch this year, with a new management team and a number of new players, there is a strong feeling that action has to be taken to arrest the failing Springbok performances.

The feeling in the brains trust is that the South African players are way behind their peers from countries such as New Zealand because they are not adequately coached in basic skills before they reach Super Rugby level, never mind the Test arena.

De Villiers, the captain at last year's Rugby World Cup, said something had to be done by the game’s ruling body if the trend of “shock” Springbok defeats was to be checked.

There is a strong sentiment that the Springboks are caught between the lure of following the way the Lions played in Super Rugby and their traditional way of playing, probably summed up by the choice of Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies at flyhalf, but with veteran former Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn coming on in the second half to provide a different set of tactics.

But Matfield made a sage comment in suggesting that Springbok players should be able to play “like the Lions as well as use traditional weapons of Springbok rugby, as the situation demands”.

Matfield pointed out that not once in the game did the Bok forwards utilise the driving maul from the line-out, a feared Springbok tool for decades.

Another former Springbok, Robbie Kempson, raised eyebrows with his comment from the ground at Salsa that coach Coetzee had possibly got it wrong in picking hooker Adriaan Strauss as his captain, and advocated a bold change.

There is a strong clamour for Strauss to make way for in-form Lions hooker Malcolm Marx, with another Lion, Warren Whitely, assuming the captaincy.

The general advice to Coetzee from the wise men of South African rugby is to settle on a distinct brand of Springbok rugby that suits the country’s current resources, stick to it come what may, and select form players to implement the strategy.

It's acknowledged that the players who come to Coetzee after Super Rugby are simply not as skilled as the world beaters from New Zealand.

But sadly, it is becoming apparent they are also not as skilled as their rivals from Argentina, a country the Boks had never lost to until last year.

The forthright Mallett said the time was ‘now long gone’ when the Boks could expect to beat teams simply because ‘they pulled on a green-and-gold jersey’.

Coetzee certainly has some big calls to make as he looks ahead to the Boks’ next game, against the Wallabies in Brisbane on September 10.

And on a macro level, there is an imploring to the South African Rugby Union to investigate what they can do better in the long run to provide the Springbok coach with adequately skilled players. - The Mercury

Original source: Boks are a team in crisis

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