Defeat to New Zealand in Christchurch and even Durban in the Rugby Championship is almost inevitable, and let’s not dismiss the possibility of losses to England and Wales when the Boks travel to the northern hemisphere for the end of year tour.
The situation really is that bad.
I’ve been writing for a while now about how much I think form players can benefit the Springbok team. I have ranted about the likes of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx and Cheslin Kolbe deserving a spot in the Bok squad. But, as the men in green and gold have so brutally revealed to us, it’s going to take much more than roaring Lions and a deceptively sweet-stepping Kolbe to get the Boks out of the blindingly dark alley they’ve found themselves in.
The Boks need to fix things from the inside out. They need to start at the core. And at the core of the Springboks are the coach and the captain; Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss.
Let’s start with Coetzee. The man seems to been caught between implementing a new, Lions brand of rugby and sticking to traditional Springbok rugby. And his attempt at marrying the two philosophies hasn’t worked out. Not at all.
Coetzee has used core players from both spectrums in the past two Rugby Championship games and in the last Test against Ireland. Lions stars Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Ruan Combrink and Warren Whiteley have represented the expansive, 15-man, running rugby approach, while players like Francois Louw, Bryan Habana, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira and, of course, Morne Steyn, have joined them from the stampkar days.
The results of this fusion have been woeful. And that is why adding form players to the mess won’t just magically solve everything. Instead, these players will end up being just as confused as the rest of us. The situation is way past that.
In saying that I don’t mean that the Springboks don’t need form players. Of course they do. But there’s much more than that they need to sort out. Coetzee needs to figure out what exactly he wants the Boks to stand for. Their game plan, their style, whether he wants to continue focusing on past strengths or move forward to a more Lions game. Ad whether or not he is the man to do that is also a question that needs answering.
If South Africa wants to move with the times and adopt a more modern approach, then Allister is not the man to take them forward. They need someone who stands for that kind of rugby. Someone who can correctly guide them and set the right structures in place. Not someone who is too caught up in a defensive mindset.
The same goes for the captain. Not so much with regards to playing style, but concerning his ability to lead, influence and be the kind of player that can actually set the benchmark.
Adriaan Strauss is not that man. In five Tests he has not once produced a performance that justifies his appointment as captain or even his selection in the squad. And there are players better suited to start at hooker and lead the Boks.
Malcom Marx is the man who should be starting at No 2. His workrate, his ability in the scrums, the lineouts, in open play AND his ability to be influential make him a better pick. But he hasn’t even gotten a real chance in the Springbok jersey. Bongi Mbonambi is another player who can do better than Strauss at hooker. He can be Marx’s backup. But we all know with 100% certainty that that will never happen.
In terms of leadership, Warren Whiteley can step up. Yes, he didn’t have his best game in Salta and he didn’t seem to play the kind of game that had people excitedly yelling for his inclusion, but you have to ask yourself why not. Does he perhaps feel pressurised to be more of a Duane Vermeulen? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, he sets a better example week in and week out than Strauss.
Original source: Why Strauss, Coetzee are not the right leaders for Boks