SA rugby in need of skills revolution

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Mind you, those words came back to haunt dear Oscar in years to come, didn’t they? He ended life in disgrace and poverty, whereas if he had lived today he would have had fame, fortune and definitely his own series on television. We are all prisoners of our times.

Have you noticed how people have been kicking Heyneke Meyer lately?

The greatest example of the hypocrisy that defines many fans here is the sneering comment on the emotions of the coach.

Yes, he lives each game minute with his heart exposed, but when he was beating New Zealand at Ellis Park or England at Twickenham, that was an attractive trait.

Look at his singing of the anthem. Look at his reactions in the coaching box. Isn’t it great to have someone who cares?

Now he is derided and mocked for exactly the same behaviour. Shame on you all.

He is slated for losing to Japan and for single-handedly destroying our rugby.

Soon he will be exposed as the real founder of ISIL, responsible for Ebola and the designer of the Nkandla fire pool. No wonder Heyneke fell on his sword and typically, he did so with grace and with his integrity intact.

The fact is that the Boks lost by two points to perhaps the greatest rugby team in history in the World Cup semi-finals.

Yes, we dragged the game down with dogged defence but that is what we did in 1995. Had Bryan Habana not charged early, had we not made that mix-up for the first try, we would be celebrating a third World Cup win and Heyneke would be a hero.

The fact that we lost is tough but had we played any other way, the chances are that we would have been hock-eyed.

Heyneke went oh so close, so let’s give him credit for that.

Okay, I accept that he has been in charge for four years and must take responsibility, and that is fair enough. Maybe that is why he stood down.

Perhaps he should have built on that magnificent game at Ellis Park in 2013 when the All Blacks won 38-27. Nigel Owens called it the greatest game of rugby ever and perhaps he was right. For once the Boks expanded play and seemed to embrace the off-load. It was a try fest and a magnificent spectacle.

However, we lost, and this is the point. You do not win World Cups by just setting out to entertain and, had we done so and come up short, the same critics would have cited a namby-pamby showbiz approach as a departure from correct Bok rugby. Closing it down and cutting risk is the go-to haven for most South African rugby people.

After Japan, Heyneke had to win it outright and he failed by two points. Kick him when he is down.

New Zealand have shown just what is possible and, as significant, so have Argentina. You can play the game at pace and if your skill levels are good enough, you can win against the best. Watch Argentina get better and better.

At any stage you can close things down, but that desire to out-think and to run is now there and in the modern game will mostly trump the arm wrestlers – if your skills are good enough.

That is the way rugby is now set up. The Argies have moved up a mental rung. We have not.

We need a skills revolution that starts collectively between our ears. We need to celebrate skill, not brawn, from the earliest age. Guile and deception, speed and trickery must be appreciated ahead of brute force. This is easier said than done. Just wait for the first intercept or spilled off-load and watch the reaction – be it at school level or Test. A skills revolution will take time and we will lose more than we are used to – at first.

Do we have the guts to go for it? Do we have the will to change a national attitude and work together. Do we really get what is at stake? I wonder.

Will the franchises commit and see it through? Will the schools and academies? When we start to lose through risk-taking, will the powers that be and the influencing media and former players be able to keep a firm hand on the tiller? Those are the questions we should be asking.

Well done, Heyneke. You gave your all and never compromised your principles. I would have kept you on to lead the revolution, but perhaps that is somebody else’s destiny.

Maybe you were a prisoner of your time.

Robbie hosts the morning drive show 6-9am weekdays on 702. - Saturday Star

Original source: SA rugby in need of skills revolution

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