CAPE TOWN - I wish South African rugby had a “blueprint” focused on skills and decision-making. It sure seems like it’s needed.
In the Springboks’ shocking 38-3 defeat to Ireland at the weekend, one of the most troubling aspects was how poor the Springboks’ decision-making was.
Remember Damian de Allende’s kick-ahead with a clear overlap on his outside that could have, had he just taken the simple passing option, led to at least a single try?
That wasn’t the only example of a shocking decision being made, and that’s the sad part.
It’s been evident this entire season. Too often it seems the Springbok players don’t know when to draw a defender in and get the pass away, or when it would be better to take contact.
Or when to assess space and show the vision to put in an accurate kick-pass or take the ball through the hands.
And expecting them to get it right every single time probably wouldn’t be fair, but it seems like they get it wrong exponentially more than what they manage to get it right.
Decision-making is as important as any other skill in the game, and the Boks are seriously lacking in that department.
The Boks’ celebrations and post-match positivity reeked of mediocrity following their one-point defeat to the All Blacks - a team who had nothing to lose - at Newlands.
And mediocre is again the word I choose to describe the decision-making we’ve seen from them this season.
Also, you can’t expect any team to make top decisions swiftly if they can’t even execute those plans and the basic skills properly.
Yep, when it comes to our skills, I’d say those are mediocre as well. Or at least the “skills” we’ve seen of late are.
The boys are at the Stade du Saut du Loup just outside Paris. Crisp and breezy conditions. pic.twitter.com/3hpVz0CRnQ
Why are we still seeing players at senior provincial level who can’t pass left or who can’t pass right, or players who still show poor tackling techniques - poor tackling that indicates flaws in the system rather than with the individual.
It’s even more ridiculous to see international players not being able to catch a high ball - can one player not make the decision to call for the ball and then communicate that decision to his teammates? It’s ridiculous to see a Test international be last in the attacking line (like Courtnall Skosan was) and somehow seem completely unaware of the fact that the ball could come their way (and then it spills into touch because he wasn’t ready, although he saw play unfold).
And it’s ridiculous to chuck the ball directly into one of your teammates (like Handré Pollard did) when there are better options available and practically hand the opposition the chance to scoop the loose ball up and score a fantastic try from your inexplicable error.
South African players’ skills are lacking, and once they get that right, then we can maybe hope to see better decision-making. But until that happens, hold off on any wishful thinking of seeing the All Blacks being beaten by the Boks.
Heck, forget about foreseeing a successful Incoming tour against England next season. All in all, hold off on expecting things to be fixed once and for all.
If there’s one indaba we need, it’s one that assesses the skills of players from Under-12 level to the Springboks, because evidently it’s also needed in that group. Attention needs to shift from being solely on stature to what players can offer in all other areas as well.
These interventions over the last two years clearly haven’t solved anything, and no “blueprint” will until we manage to equip players with the skills, and ultimately the decision-making ability, that they need to perform.
Why do we have to go gaga over a handful of exciting youngsters who boast a crazy step or offloads that would put Sonny Bill Williams to shame? With the kind of talent pool South Africa has, there is absolutely no reason for that small group of young rugby players to be isolated cases seen every five or so years - just like anything else, proper handling and a general know-how with the ball can be taught.
Times have changed, and it might be a good idea to change, and adapt, with it.