ON THE EDGE

View from the Couch

Fri, 28 Sep 2012 08:58
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No matter how well he plays, he will not get selected for his national team
Quote-end

Part-time columnist and full-time rugby fan John OConnor returns this week with his unique 'View from the Couch' - as he taps into the sense of unease pervading Bok fans.

THE VIEW FROM THE COUCH

On any given Saturday afternoon I know I will be on a couch. Mostly it is my couch. It could also be the couch of a mate, so long as his fridge is well stocked and his family well trained. But whoever the owner of said couch may be; it is the view from the couch that is all important.

A weird paradoxical mix of relief and unease pervades the minds of Bok fans this week. The non-selection of Morné Steyn (unavoidable, although Steyn is a player for whom I have huge respect - note the classy manner he has handled all the abuse hurled his way the last 18 months) has given rise to the relief. However, the unease lingers and this week the View from the Couch attempts to investigate this dichotomy.

To this end I was very fortunate this week to have the opportunity to pick the brains of a Springbok. The raison d'être for this column is to point out things that the fans see, but are never discussed by the members of the media aka the Filth Estate. Considering that this former Bok loosie of the last 15 years is neither a coach nor a pundit, he certainly qualifies - a fan who knows what he is talking about, especially when it comes to team dynamics.

LOOKING BACK

Part One - Credit where it is due

The last column (find it here) discussed the ongoing misconception in Seffrican rugby regarding openside flankers and their role in the modern game: "The purpose of an opensider, 'fetcher' flank is not to win ball on the ground while on defence. The primary purpose of an opensider is to secure his team's ball on attack. Winning turnovers is the cream on the top…

For all their success in Super Rugby, the Achilles heel of the Sharks was their tendency to penetrate the first line of defence and then be turned over. This was especially evident in the last 10 metres before from the opposition tryline and best seen in their loss to the Hurricanes. The reason: no fetcher flank to secure their own ball. So what does the Bok brain trust do? They select the same two Shark flanks continually and we continually battle to retain our own ball."

It was thus no surprise to see that the selection of an opensider to start against the All Blacks coincided with the disappearance of the above problem. But was Francois Louw given any credit? Almost none.

This ongoing blindness when it comes to comes to fetchers from both the Bok management and Seffrican press must be playing a part in the non-selection of one of the world's premier opensiders - Heinrich Brüssow.

That must be the reason. It can't be size, can it? Otherwise Elton Jantjies wouldn't be a Springbok.*

Part Two - The horror, the horror!

When (on six minutes in the AB game) Morné Steyn, Kirchner and Habana managed to turn seven points into custard; my wails of anguish could have called the faithful to prayer. Even the Perfumed Steamroller raised her head in enquiry - not to see if I was suffering but rather if our boys, Cain and Abel, were at risk.

But once again, the root cause of the botch-up has not been mentioned. They had a three-on-two with acres of space. All Steyn and Kirchner needed to do was for each of them to fix their man, pass, and Habana would have scored near the uprights. But because Steyn didn't fix his tackler, the defender shifted over and it became two-on-two, Kirchner panicked and the rest is dairy product.

These are simple skills that are taught to 12-year-olds in NZ and Oz. Will it be different on Saturday with our two new flyhalves.

Hope springs eternal in the breast of the deluded.

LOOKING FORWARD

Part One - What message does it send?

Considerable debate was generated from my comment in the last column that "There can be little doubt that the best value for money provincial/S15/club player in the world is Keegan Daniel… no matter how well he plays, he will not get selected for his national team"

It is at this point that I have to bow to the observations of the aforementioned Springbok, who painted the following scenario and I quote: Daniel was possibly the SA player of the S15. He gets 10 or 15 min in two tests against England. Players get injured and he gets to start once in Cape Town vs. Argentina where he is pulled after 50 minutes. He comes on for 20 minutes in Mendoza where he turns the game (Daniel's one-handed pick-up of a loose ball on the run and chip ahead lead to Francois Steyn's charge-down try and tied the game). He has done the hard yards with the team around the world. You never give a player just one game to prove himself; he must be given at least five. But Daniel is dropped. What message does that send to the youngsters? Unless you fit the mould or are a favourite from the beginning, it doesn't matter if you do the hard yards for the team. You will not be given a fair go. You will basically have to be man-of-the-match in you first game, otherwise you're out. He's a helluva loyal guy but if I was Daniel, I would be looking for the money (i.e. overseas)

If I was Brüssow, I would be thinking the same thing. **

Part Two - Custodians only

Quade Cooper's assertion this week that he would not be playing for the Wallabies on Sat if he wasn't injured because the team environment and team tactics don't suit him or his style of play nauseating. It is also an indicator of the radical difference between the attitudes found in Wallaby rugby vs. the other big two. As an All Black or a Springbok you are taught by the ou manne (veterans) from the off to view your jersey as a privilege that you hold in trust for the next generation.

Say what we like about Meyer's tactics, but I reckon Cooper would last as long in Heyneke's squad as a balloon at a porcupine's birthday party.

I feel for Robbie Deans, I really do.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"He does everything required of a tight forward without the glory, and for me, he will wear the Springbok jersey one day."  - Willie Lose (NZ rugby commentator and former North Harbour player) on Daniel Adongo. Adongo is a 23-year-old Kenyan born lock/blindside flank whose stated goal is to play for the Boks. Adongo scored three tries on debut this season for the Bulls in the Vodacom Cup and was then dropped. The Bulls released him when he was offered a two-year contract to play for Counties-Manukau in the New Zealand NPC. The Counties coach who saw him play twice and offered him a contract on the spot - Tana Umaga

Either the Bulls don't know what they are doing, or Willie Lose doesn't know what he's talking about, or the coaching is amazing in New Zealand.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Prior to his shoulder injury, Johan Goosen had the most line breaks and the second most off-loads (behind SBW) in the S15.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Heyneke Meyer and Jean de Villiers keep on reassuring us that inexperience is absolutely no excuse for not performing… and then immediately tell us how inexperienced their players are.

Guess what fellas - every time you say it, it'

AFTERTHOUGHT

South African players have long cornered the market when it comes to the most glorious names on a rugby field: Draadkar (Cable-car) de Lange and Windpomp (Windmill) Vermeulen spring to mind.

There have been some challengers - notably from Fiji and other Pacific Island nations.

But now, from out oldest foe comes the first real threat to our supremacy, because Hawkes Bay have unearthed a new right wing: Gillies Kaka

* - Oh yes, he isn't yet
** - For the record, the Springbok I interviewed (himself 101kg when he played in the green and gold) is firmly of the belief that Daniel should be in the team on merit†. Daniel reminds him of Teichmann because they both cross/cross the advantage line using skill not power, shifting and pivoting their bodies away from the point of contact
† - I agree. In fact I would go as far as to say that Daniel would start for Australia on Sat and definitely be on the bench for the AB's

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