Celebrating Saturday’s answers

Keo, in his Business Day column, writes that at last an international match provided answers and did not ask more questions.

The answers, in no particular order of merit, are:

1. Evidence of why the International Rugby Board insists on neutral referees in test matches. South African Tappe Henning was an embarrassment. He was the wrong match official for an occasion that supposedly was based on improving player welfare. If it did so, it was at the expense of spectator welfare.

2. South Africa’s best tighthead prop is playing for Saracens in the English Premiership. Despite Jake White’s refusal to acknowledge Cobus Visagie’s desire to play for the Springboks again, the former Bok strongman cut short any thought of an extended international return for Sharks loosehead prop Deon Carstens.

3. Hanyani Shimange and Gary Botha’s test claims. John Smit’s value was emphasized in his absence, both as a hooker and as the team captain.

4. Another Bok management utterance that Albert van den Berg and Danie Rossouw are in the class of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha should see the management fined for deliberately trying to con the rugby public.

5. Wikus van Heerden is a salt of the earth kind of chap. He is however not a test flanker and the loose-trio combination that started against the World XV is best left to the fantasy leagues. Individually, they score points, but as a unit they lack in every aspect.

6. Schalk Burger is 50 percent of the Bok pack. Burger was another whose shares rose dramatically in his absence. None of the Bok loose-forwards could make an impact at the breakdown.

7. Ricky Januarie is surviving on the memory of 2005. He is currently overweight, overpaid and clearly over the honeymoon period.

8. Jaco van der Westhuyzen needs game time at flyhalf. He was a poor imitation of the flyhalf who ignited a youthful Bok backline in 2004.

9. Gaffie du Toit is a makeshift wing and not the answer at test level.

10. Andre Snyman, similarly to Du Toit, is a ‘holding job’ option at wing. Neither gives the fullback (on Saturday Percy Montgomery) comfort in defence. Neither plays back effectively and neither understands the winger’s off-the-ball importance.

From this 10-point perspective, the Bok coaching staff should have felt Saturday’s win came not in the 10-penalty inspired 30-27 scoreline, but in evidence that what played as a Bok XV on Saturday should never be allowed to play as a test XV in the future.

The celebration of Saturday is in the answers we got from the game. To even try and celebrate a win that yielded not one backline line break and no tries against a mix and match World team that in the build-up spent more time boozing than training would be further insulting the intelligence of every person who paid R250 to get in at Ellis Park.

The Boks, inspired by the return of Burger and company, will be a different proposition for the improving Scottish team. Struggling against the World XV has no relation to Saturday test match in Durban. The comparison is one of apples and pears.

What is relevant from Saturday’s match at Ellis Park is the definite change of playing attitude within the Bok camp – and it is not a good one.

For the first time since the awful 2003 season, the Boks played with no ambition, no freedom of expression and no innovation. They played like a team scared to lose and one inhibited by pressure and not excited by opportunity. It is as much a reflection on the coaches because they determine the match strategy.

The Boks, asked to operate within the restrictions of a No 10 who kicked 80 percent of the ball and a pack that struggled at the set pieces, offered absolutely nothing in attack.

Defensively, the Boks were not great, despite the limitations of a World XV that lacked familiarity and cohesion. The lineout is one of the primary attacking platforms and the World XV won five effective lineouts in 16, claimed another three ineffectual ones and lost eight, mostly because of wayward throwing.

And still they outscored the Boks by two tries to nil!

The ‘win by 10 penalties’ mentality highlighted a lack of ambition among the Boks. Saturday’s exhibition match should never have been about kicking 10 penalties to beat a World XV. It should have been about scoring tries and showcasing talents good enough to create try-scoring opportunities. It ended up being neither.

Saturday in Durban will be different. At least it should be. Burger and his mates have attitude and hopefully this translates into a Bok team with a bit more ambition.