Change points to the future

Keo, in his Business Day column, writes that Jake White should make more changes to the side that beat New Zealand.

In defending why he had to pick Percy Montgomery in 31 out of 32 tests Jake White asked who would kick the goals. He now knows there is an alternative.

But if there is life after Monty the points machine, then the question of life after Monty the test fullback was not answered in Rustenburg. Jaque Fourie is, alongside Stirling Mortlock, the best outside centre in the game. He is not a test fullback because he has too many limitations with his kicking game.

The selectors may care to overlook this after Andre Pretorius’s penalty turned the prospect of a crushing two point defeat into a first win for the Boks in six tests. But it is this type of attention to detail that defines quality selectors.

How would the anlaysis of a 20-18 defeat compare with that of a 21-20 win? And what would the reaction to the previous 78 minutes have been? The emotion is different, but the emotion must not be confused with the analysis.

What was unforgiving in the previous 78 minutes should not be forgotten because one kick knocked over complacent All Blacks, whose arrogance finally got punished.

For the All Blacks to say they lacked hunger is nonsense. They did their throat-slitting haka and Richie McCaw and Dan Carter were as good as they were a week ago in Pretoria. The All Blacks were a team chasing only a second series win in South Africa and they were a team two tests away from equaling the world record of 17 successive test wins. If that can’t motivate them then mentally they aren’t strong enough to win the World Cup.

The All Blacks believed they had won it before the start. They had no respect for the Springboks and once again South African desperation and passion (at home) upstaged a skilful bunch of All Blacks who showed good touch rugby skills, but little test match menace in the tackle. For all our troubles, a team still has to bring their ‘A’ game to beat the Boks in South Africa.

And more to the point, the Boks don’t necessarily need an ‘A’ game to win at home.

To have success against England at Twickenham in November and at next year’s World Cup in France, there has to be selection changes. Let’s look at the first 78 minutes of the test. The Boks used width through Andre Pretorius’s pass, but made no impression. The driving maul was ineffective and their best try of the season came from a lineout steal, manufactured by Victor Matfield.

Pretorius drifts laterally on attack and overuses the long pass and one of those found the intercepting hands of Chris Jack. If it had been Sivivatu or Rokocoko the test would have been lost and Pretorius would probably not be playing this weekend. This is just one example.

Another is the six linebreaks of Aaron Mauger and Jerry Collins. In Pretoria those linebreaks led to tries. In Rustenburg scrambling defence saved the embarrassment.

There was a problem defensively in that No 10 channel, but few will discuss it this week because of a late penalty kick win.

New Zealand dominated the Boks this year because they eliminated playing risk rugby in their own half. In Rustenburg they dispensed with this and rarely used Carter’s boot to play for territory. They stuffed around in their own half, threw shocking pressure passes and gifted Bryan Habana a try.

The All Blacks self destructed in their casual approach and that is significant when we assess a 20 point turnaround in a week. The Boks did not play significantly better, but they picked players more physical and confrontational at the tackle.

The combinations used in Rustenburg are still not the right ones. The Boks have the best midfield in the game and on Saturday one started at fullback and the other finished on the wing.

I’d also play Butch James at No 10 against Australia, with Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie in the centres. And I’d pick Ruan Pienaar at No 9.

There are better players in South Africa who can strengthen this Bok team. They won’t play this weekend, but if they are not included for the Twickenham series, what should be an adventure will be a long fortnight.

Those players who beat the All Blacks must feel proud of the achievement. But the same combination is too limited to win in England or in France next year.

If you think that is harsh, then study the first 78 minutes to know what still has to improve as opposed to the winning penalty kick as a measure of the improvement.