A big thumbs-up from Damian de Allende during the SA press conference at the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel on Tuesday. Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Hollywoodbets
A big thumbs-up from Damian de Allende during the SA press conference at the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel on Tuesday. Photo: Steve Haag Sports / Hollywoodbets

The Springboks are in their happy place in Japan

By Mike Greenaway Time of article published Sep 19, 2019

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DURBAN – Yesterday, Facebook reminded me of a post I wrote two years ago on the day, tears clearly splashing onto my keyboard as I implored Saru to put Allister Coetzee out of his misery, not to mention a global Springbok following that was calling for his sacking...

Our prayers were answered, and while Coetzee had not had the same support from Saru that Rassie Erasmus certainly has, (he is the director of rugby so he can get whatever he wants as Bok coach), the bottom line is that the Springboks in last 18 months have gone from routinely getting hidings from the All Blacks to either beating, drawing or losing by one point to them.

How blissfully cool is it this week to have a calm Bok coach in Erasmus quietly announcing his team to play the All Blacks two days before New Zealand are scheduled to do the same. It sends out a signal to the rugby world that the Boks are in an ideal space.

Erasmus’ announcement shenanigans is now old history because he has matured into a coach who understands that it doesn’t really matter when you announce your team if you are confident in your plans.

On the other side of the fence, the All Blacks have been fussing about their selections for months.

The uncertainty in their camp and especially in the mind of ageing coach Steve Hansen is what to do about the sparkling options at No 10 and 15. Since the retirement of Dan Carter after the 2015 World Cup, Hansen has been vacillating between two brilliant players in Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo‘unga, without making a choice between the two.

Rugby writer Mike Greenaway.

A young, bold coach such as Scott Robertson of the Crusaders, who should have taken over from Hansen two years ago, would not hesitate

He would play Barrett at No 10 with Mo’unga on the bench. Simple as that. Robertson would not mess around with playing top players out of position. He would simply accept that he has two of the best No 10s in the world and they would have to accept that Mo’unga would play off the bench. But, and this is pleasing for the Boks, Hansen has not made a firm decision and it fuels uncertainty in the All Black ranks.

How does regular No 15 Ben Smith feel about being the third party on the sidelines, while Hansen stuffs around trying to decide who to play at flyhalf? Smith was for some years regarded as the best fullback in the world but since Hansen began his muddled shuffling at the back, Smith is grumpily digesting that from the No 1 fullback in the world he is now on the bench.

In short, the Boks named a rock-solid matchday 23 early in match week, today Hansen will name a team where there is uncertainty around No 10, 15 and 23.

For the Boks, long may the All Black bumbling continue.


The Mercury

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