Springboks’ Grip Slipping
Why is it that in International Rugby no team has been able to defend their World Cup Title, yet in other sports this has been achieved?
Looking at the last two Rugby World Cup winners, England in 2003 and South Africa in 2007, it would appear that the reason may lie in the professional era behind coaches unwilling to ring the changes.
Every coach wants leaders on the paddock, every coach wants experience, but sometimes you have to sacrifice that knowledge for young blood, the fearlessness of youth and the passion a young player brings to an established team.
It is no easy task getting the blend right, but it has to be done.
Springboks coach Pieter de Villiers has asked South African fans to keep the faith with his ageing team, but it will take a miracle for him to turn the team around and make them anything like a challenger to retain their World Cup Crown.
Springbok Captain John Smit was outstanding four years ago, and he helped hide de Villiers failings early on, but no he has passed his use by date, the truth can no longer be hidden.
Smit was the man who ran the team, and has had a far greater influence on the Springbok play than de Villiers, the coach handing him more control than any captain in the modern era. It worked initially but as Smit gets older, and so do his team mates around him the cracks are appearing and the coach has no idea who to turn to.
The coach decided to try and copy his predecessor Jake White by resting his key players in this years Tri-Nations tournament, yet the reasoning behind his resting these players and the timeframes were completely different to White’s.
A year out from the World Cup Jake White decided to blood his second string players against all of the top sides in the world, not only to increase their experience, but also so that if they were selected against the All Blacks, the Wallabies or England, they would not be overawed as they would have already played them.
At the weekend de Villiers turned to the most experienced Springbok starting XV ever against Australia in Durban, and they failed to impress. This was a game they had to win, having rested all of the senior players, they had to win to show that they were back refreshed and capable of defending their world crown. Instead they looked rusty and low on confidence and it is going to take a monumental effort to turn the team around before their opening game at the World Cup. This weekend’s match against the All Blacks could shatter that confidence even further.
De Viliers failed to ring the changes hoping that ageing talent and experience would hide his failings as a coach, but come the World Cup it will be for him the bell tolls.