The Revolution must start now
It is patently obvious that the brand of rugby that the Bulls play is not the way forward for the Springboks. It is vital that Heyneke Meyer ensures that the personnel he selects for the Rugby Championship can play a game that includes intelligence and momentum created from flair and creativity.
The Bulls against the Crusaders (and the Boks v England in the third test) tried to outmuscle a team that they were not as strong as physically. Predictably it failed. And having boxed themselves into that corner and being the one-trick pony that they have become, they lacked the creative flare to ensure that they had another means of creating momentum.
It was in no way a surprise to me (or to most people that I talk rugby with) that this was coming. The only positive from the game was that it happened so decidedly and visually in contrast to the 80 minutes that followed it (Sharks v Reds).
Rugby is a game of momentum and one tries to create it through various means. Good sides can create go-forward off backfoot, first-phase ball, by using smarts. They do this by attacking the advantage line in other parts of the field. Once front-foot ball is 'manufactured' the momentum roll can start and grow.
Think of teams with creative 10-12 combinations who never had physically domineering packs of forwards. I think to Larkham and Horan, who between them (with forward parity at best) could manufacture momentum and by so doing allow Finegan and co. to then drive it home, and so the snowball would grow.
Bloody-minded running upright at men not space (or bodies not arms) and trying to direct the game from deep in the pocket, with a "I kick it and you chase it" mentality is not the way forward. We need a thinking, linking, kicking, running-friendly 10. When the Bok 10 looks up and sees four of us and two of them, it needs to signify to him that there is space and an overlap to exploit, and not that he has three chasers.
The change needs to start now. Not later – now. This pattern will lose eight times out of 10 to the All Blacks, and by big margins. If we do not change immediately, we will lose our opportunity to dominate the next eight years that we clearly have with the current stock of quality superstars waiting for their chance.
Put us in the hands of Johan Goosen, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Francois Hougaard (playing his natural game), Frans Steyn, Heinrich Brussow, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi and the like. You could throw in at least three of the young Cheetah brigade too (Ash Johnson, Piet Van Zyl, Willie Le Roux, Robert Ebersohn), for that matter – they understand. They are able to play the kind of creative hybrid (not all-out running) rugby that has made us the force we have been for 130 years. Whenever we have had the right mix of brawn and brains we've excelled.
For Morne Steyn, Pierre Spies, Wynand Olivier and Zane Kirchner, the Springbok journey must surely be over. And while I am sure that they are great guys, role models and indeed terrific Super Rugby professionals, the Boks need a steep change. There are players not getting opportunities who are better, full stop. And better suited to the way we need to be playing.
The Sharks' brand that destroyed the Reds was built on what I’m talking about. It was built around halfbacks and flair-filled loose forwards who pass at the right time to the right people. They attacked the gainline. Michalak, McLeod and Tim Whitehead were massive. They counter-attacked with joy and they played rugby with smiles on their faces. They were a credit to all that is great in SA Rugby.
And make no mistake, they were not without the required grunt up front. Bresler, the brothers Du Plessis, the Beast, Willem Alberts and their (lightweight) loose forwards got stuck in. What was so refreshing from the Sharks, was that while they respected the territory, it did not dissuade them from attacking from their 22m when they created quick front-foot or turnover ball. They played what was in front of them - because they can. There are other ways to earn territory other than just kicking. But the right players are required to execute this.
As if we needed to juxtapose the two styles more blatantly, these games were 10 minutes apart. I have studied Bok rugby my whole life and I can truly say that I love it and couldn't live without it. The most exciting thing is that in Johan Erasmus (one of my absolute favourite Springboks) we have a man who played like 'The Sharks' example' and Heyneke Meyer is by all accounts (I know a lot of guys I trust who truly respect him) a visionary.
I am sure they know to be true that Bok rugby at its best is what I am describing – the perfect hybrid with a creative spine at 8, 9 and 10 and a fullback who loves to counter-attack. I beg them to select on merit and drive us towards this new dawn. The time is now.
Viva the Boks.
Steve Morris presents SuperSport.com's exclusive weekly video feature Working the Blindside, which looks ahead at the weekend's upcoming games. View his videos here