Don’t get me wrong. By acknowledging the Boks have made some good progress in a short space of time I’m not saying their 2016 troubles are a thing of the past or that they should “forget” about it (like Allister Coetzee said – it’s forgotten).
I’m merely saying the Boks have showed us, in both Tests, that they’ve expanded their thinking in a crucial area – attack.
They’ve been playing with greater intent and intensity, and we’ve seen greater variety on attack from the men in green and gold. Last year there was none of that. Last year they looked aimless, lacked intent and it seemed they took to the field with no clear plan in mind.
And the fact that, this time around, you can see they are trying things on attack and are wanting to grow their attacking game, well, that alone is a massive improvement from last year – where it was said they wanted to play more “enterprising rugby”, but there was not the faintest indication of it on the field.
Yes, Coetzee’s men have improved tremendously in another important department – defence. On Saturday their organisation looked way better than it did last season and their tackle count compared to missed tackles spoke volumes.
And while their grit on defence has been praised, especially for the way they kept the admittedly one-dimensional French out in the first quarter of the second half, the steps they’ve taken in the attacking direction should also be welcomed.
One can argue that the inclusion of an all-Lions spine is the reason why the Boks look better in this department, but the fact it seems like those guys are allowed to bring their Lions game into the Bok set-up is an accomplishment on it’s own.
But it’s not just the Lions. Look at a guy like Siya Kolisi. He has grown so much in terms of his play, and he has showed he can do his thing at the breakdowns AND contribute silky running and handling skills. And all of that, that kind of play, that kind of freedom, is vital in growing your attacking game.
We saw some nice attacking movements in Durban, we some some nice variety, and we saw them use the width of the field, and that should continue to grow.
Having someone with a rugby mind like Franco Smith in the Bok set-up can only be good, and going forward, the Boks should continue to mix it up.
We’ve seen the intent, we’ve seen the beautiful tries they can score. And going forward, I hope the Springboks continue to work on developing their attacking game.
Because if this past weekend was anything to go by, things can only get better.