Poms delight in Bok win

Stuart Barnes, in the London Sunday Times, says England has nothing to fear from the Boks as long as Jake White is coach. He’s tipped a two-nil series win for the Poms in November.

Barnes, the former England flyhalf, wrote that the Boks win against the All Blacks should delight England.

“Defeat would have left the position of coach Jake White almost untenable after what would have been a record-breaking six straight defeats,” wrote Barnes. “And that would have been not just bad news for White but for the rest of the rugby world, because South Africa are a whole lot better than we have witnessed under their coach this season, despite yesterday’s shock victory.”

He contined: “As pyrrhic wins go, this one went with a capital P, but after their horrendous efforts any old win would have done and White will defend the indefensible mess that his team has been most of this season. The words of White leading up to the game suggest that under him they will not evolve into a major threat on neutral ground.

“Refusing to panic after the All Blacks battered them in Pretoria, with altitude and half a team missing and all, White explained the reason why he has for so long maintained the old faces that have struggled to cope with the pace of New Zealand and Australia. You may think you have heard it before. “These are the same players who have achieved in the past so there is no reason for me not to have faith in them.”

“Faith” – that dear old Christian virtue that has undermined England’s attempt to escape from their self-imposed World Cup nostalgia — is good in a church, disastrous in selection; this faith in past achievements is illogical. It is as if time stands still when it comes to judging rugby players and contemporary failures can be glossed over because of distant triumphs.

“Blinded by faith — and using what is effectively the opposite of reason to explain away serious errors — is bad enough, but when a team under the cosh uncovers one aspect of its game that worked superbly and dismantles it, that takes the proverbial biscuit. Jean de Villiers is South Africa’s most dangerous playmaker and his absence through injury has undoubtedly hindered the Springboks. Last Saturday’s return to international duty resulted in one of the best centre combinations to take on the All Blacks for a few years.

“De Villiers is a powerful man with the strength to commit two defenders and the handling skills to unload into space under pressure — a damned good centre. Alongside him, Jaque Fourie ran hard and late, leaving his markers to clutch at air on a few occasions. His late try under the posts was as good as anything South Africa has achieved this season, even if New Zealand had the foot off the pedal.

I”t was a partnership around which a stuttering back-line could galvanise. Or it would have been had Fourie not been shifted to his schoolboy position of full-back. Yesterday’s selection got lucky, nothing more than that.

“Some changes were made after a concerted media campaign, with AJ Venter brought back to add some experienced back-row clout. Andre Pretorius was selected to start and add some snap in attack. Both these decisions appear forced and late in the season. It is a southern hemisphere version of England’s last Six Nations.”

Barnes described Luke Watson as a combination of Neil Back and Bob Skinstad and a certainty for a tired Bok team, while he could not believe that Schalk Brits, prior to his injury, has never been considered for the Boks.

Barnes concluded: “A coach, flawed by “faith” and seemingly surrounded by favourites, should not last long. New Zealand did South Africa no favours by easing off in Rustenburg. Yesterday’s win will set South Africa back. Take England to beat them 2-0.”