John Robbie.
John Robbie.
I think most of us agree that social media, although an incredible democratic development, contains within it a fair amount of twaddle.

Far from tolling the knell of conventional media, the confusion it causes has led to a demand for credible reference points.

Just look at the rise of the political or social commentator. These people are celebrated like stars today because they’re able to bring a level of order to the chaos caused by social media and dumbed-down comment.

Instead of polluting with sensationalism and scandal, many think a move to objectivity and reasoned sanity, delivered in an attractive way, would prove commercially successful for many a battling platform, regardless of it being on radio, print, screen or digital.

We shall see. In the end, the numbers will decide.

I did laugh at that Facebook picture of massive random Springbok celebrations. The caption indicated it was a reaction to us not getting Japan in our 2019 World Cup group. Ha-ha! More of that digital cleverness please.

I am a great fan of the Irish rugby coach Joe Schmidt. He has a terrific record wherever he’s been, with the exception of that loss to Argentina at the last World Cup.

He is a perfectionist, but retains a sense of humour and regardless of injury or luck, he seems to be able to remain logical and motivational at all times. He plans and delivers and exudes quiet confidence.

When the draw was announced for Japan, many of Irish persuasion were punching the air in delight. 

His side are in a group with Scotland and Japan. Compare that with England, who have France and Argentina, or ourselves with the mighty All Blacks and Italy, who recently beat us deservedly.

He refused to betray a hint of satisfaction on social media, rather observing that each group contained “the good, the bad and the ugly”. He also made the point that it is hard to assess where teams will be in terms of standard in two years’ time. The man talks sense.

We should celebrate the Springboks’ draw rather than break out the sackcloth. Getting the All Blacks in the pool stage is a benefit. It is good, not bad or ugly.

I am being serious, and here’s why: Assuming that, as usual, they will be strong and probably favourites, it means we can afford to lose once to them without being eliminated. All other major contenders will meet them in the knockout stage, where this won’t apply to us, so we have an advantage.

Remember England in 2007. We put 36 points on them without reply in the pool, but had to battle to pip them in the final. They improved immeasurably. Playing the best in the pool is not necessarily bad. It means we get two cracks at them, not one, provided we qualify.

But there’s more to it than that. We have often lamented the fall of our rugby standards. Due to hubris, we believed for years the Boks had a God-given right to be successful. We assumed physical and aggressive superiority came with our birth certificates.

Professional fitness and conditioning training proved the fallacy of this, and we have fallen way behind in skills level as well as fitness. But remember, we’re talking about 2019. We have two years in which to get it right and a juicy target at which to aim.

At the moment, there’s fierce debate about selection for the French visit. Well, Rule 1 should be that anyone who will not be around for 2019 should be out. No exception, even if it means playing callow youths and accepting defeats. Japan is more important than this series.

Select the skipper – hopefully Warren Whiteley, who has a track record of leading out of the wilderness – and move on from there. Speed, skill and imagination will be needed in 2019, so let’s start developing now. But this needs agreement, commitment and a steady hand on the tiller.

In 2004, against Ireland in Bloem before his first Test in charge, Jake White told his side (and it was a much criticised selection, remember): “This is the basis of the side that will win the World Cup in France.”

He stuck to his guns, swallowed his pride over political interference and ignored a concerted media campaign to destroy him. He delivered, and we celebrated.

We should now start preparing and select for that first game against New Zealand in Japan in 2019. That’s when we need to show we have caught up, or even passed the rest. What a prospect and, if managed properly, what a two-year period we have ahead of us.

* Robbie is a former British Lions, Ireland and Transvaal scrumhalf

Saturday Star

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