CAPE TOWN – Swys de Bruin quitting the Springboks just before the World Cup might be “sad”, but it could also open up the door for another World Cup “master stroke”.
Speaking at the Laureus Breakfast in Newlands yesterday, former Springboks Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers discussed the Boks’ World Cup chances, what’s proved the difference this season and attack consultant De Bruin’s departure a little over a month from the World Cup.
SA Rugby yesterday announced that De Bruin advised Springbok management on Tuesday that he wished to be released from his role as an attack consultant with the team, stating that he made the request for “personal and medical reasons”.
While sudden, it’s not all doom and gloom though, according to the former Bok duo.
“I think this gives an opportunity to bring in someone else as well,” said Burger.
“In 2007 Rassie (Erasmus) was with us and he did a lot of our pre-season build-up as the team was split in two groups, the travelling group and the group that stayed here. Then Rassie left and we got in Eddie Jones, who made a marked difference on our attack and he was a breath of fresh air before the World Cup, it was a master stroke by Jake (White) at the time (the Boks won the World Cup that year).
“It’s sad to see Swys not going through with it...he’s taking a leaf out of Jean’s book - he’s bowing out of the World Cup before it’s even started,” Burger quipped, referring to De Villiers’ unlucky run of injuries in the big years.
“But in saying that, it’s a big opportunity to bring someone on board to bring something extra, every World Cup is a testing ground. It’s the only time a team will be forced to be together for four or five months, and that’s sometimes the biggest challenge - keeping it together for four or five months.”
De Villiers agreed that some good could come out of the Lions coach’s decision.
“I think it will have an effect of course, losing your attack coach. Hopefully the structures were put in place and hopefully they can just continue with that.
“It was quite evident, I saw it Saturday, Swys wasn’t in the box. Obviously they played that game with Swys not being there, and it’s a big setback for the team. But sometimes you use your setbacks to your advantage, sometimes it’s an opportunity for the team and an individual to step up and really get through it,” De Villiers said.
In terms of not only results but also performance, the Boks have taken some big strides, with recent results including their first Rugby Championship title and a historic win over the All Blacks in Wellington in 2018.
There has been incredible depth exposed and some exciting players have come through. A main difference, Burger believes, has also been the work rate and attitude shown by the players.
“There’s definitely a work rate. If you look at the game against Argentina...we kicked and we chased and we worked off the ball, we were competitive in all facets. I think that was maybe lacking in the previous era, where we’d start playing as individuals when things weren’t going well, you’d see a good carry but a poor clean.
Now you’d see an average kick or a good kick becoming a great decision, and that’s where the work rate in the player comes in.
“It comes down to a serious culture change and mindset change to work and to graft for each other. And even if we don’t win the World Cup, we’re gonna have a chance at winning that game just because we graft so hard for each other.”@WynonaLouw