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Balls to the walls


You have to give it to Jericho’s sackers. As far as gameplans go, theirs was rather inventive.

What a sight it must have been to see those walls tumbling down! And what about the look on the faces of those who thought it a silly idea to do a few laps around a town and then give the horn section a nod.

If I'd been there I’m sure I would have pulled a jaw muscle long before the first note sounded.

Not that I don’t have respect for bad music. I’ve had the misfortune of hearing a trumpet solo gone wrong. It’s horrifying – especially if you’re the one blowing into the thing. No doubt about the fact that it can cause serious harm (in particular to children, pets and neighbour-relations).

But rupture a wall? Not unless the wall's made of eardrums, surely? It’s no surprise that that particular party trick hasn’t been repeated too often in battle.

What is surprising though, is how many rugby fans still cling steadfastly to the idea that sacking a bastion requires nothing more than a few circumventions and some ball-in-hand jazz.

Every time I hear that silly call for the trumpets I add to the noise by thumping my jaw rhythmically onto the floor.

Please stop! My chin hurts.

Let’s rather get real. When faced with a proper wall you have only two options: 1. you assemble a team of engineers and build a bridge over it or 2. you get a couple of cannons and knock man-sized chunks out of it.

Those are also the only two workable options international rugby coaches have in front of them when they start building a gameplan. Nothing else on that list, and if you think you can add an option, you’ve just discovered the reason you’re not an international coach yourself.

The time has come for rugby fans in this country to stop arguing for or against a song-and-dance routine that only ever worked once – and ages ago (if legends are to be believed).

Instead, let’s appreciate the fact that we’re witnessing the world’s two best teams as they start to master the two different approaches. And that twice a year, for at least the next couple of years, we can see those approaches in head-to-head battle.

Who can argue that last week’s bridge-builders v bombers battle wasn’t top-notch entertainment? Well, until it got spoiled by a Frenchman who couldn’t stand the heat.

And who wouldn’t pay good money to watch the re-match at Ellis Park?

World rugby is a treat right now, no matter what you were taught as at under-13 level.

But what about the game’s true romantics? The ones who think back to 1973 and believe all games should feature that Barbarians side against the All Blacks? I have a band-aid for that bleeding heart of yours, and here it is: make peace.

Make peace with the fact that we’re not the bridge-builders. That is New Zealand’s role and they are brilliant at it. We can try to copy them, but we’ll only ever be as good as they are now. And by then they’ll already have ten new designs.

Make peace with the fact that we’re the bombers, and that it is a role that suits us to a tee. South African players are big, and they instinctively believe the shortest route to any destination is a straight line, even if there’s a bit of wall in the way.

Once you’re able to breathe normally again, make peace with the fact that we need solidity at fullback, for example. It’s plain logic: the bigger the cannon, the bigger the need for a sturdy backstop.

Start understanding the need for an “overweight” loose-trio. Only a fool will take on a wall with a 9mm. Understand that experienced leadership is a must for any artillery; no-one can afford jitters when cannons start to backfire.

And finally, start believing.

No-one has more ammunition than us, and in Fourie du Preez we have the world’s best marksman. We have a coach who owns the copyright on this blueprint and as a unit his men are starting understand what it is he wants.

At Ellis Park it’ll be us defending our fortress. In circumstances like these it is better to bomb invaders than evade them. We’re ready to do just that.

All I’m hoping for is that there won’t be any loose cannons.

Johan Coetzee is the rugby editor for supersport.com.


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