Chasing greatness

The Springboks’ approach is brutally effective despite its simplicity, but it needs to evolve to have sustained success.

This is a view supported by Australia coach Robbie Deans, whose side were beaten by the Springboks at Newlands on Saturday. The Wallabies failed to effectively counter the Springboks’ kick-chase pattern, but Deans, speaking to keo.co.za, says it is a matter of time before teams do formulate ways to blunt them.

‘When they get that kick-chase game going it’s extremely difficult to counter, and credit to them, they haven’t put a foot wrong in their execution for some time now,’ Deans said.

‘But in the modern game, with the amount of analyses available to sides, it’s inevitable that you will be worked out if your approach remains unchanged for an extended period of time.

‘The Springboks have the players to play in a number of different ways and they need to explore all their options to make them an even better side.’

Some would peddle the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ argument, but that rationale should have no place in the Springboks’ mindset.

The best teams are those who are constantly looking for ways to improve and stay a step ahead of their opposition. Deans’ Crusaders, with whom he won four Super Rugby titles, are a prime example.

They were perceived to be a side more taken by an expansive brand of rugby than they were a measured, pragmatic approach, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t mix it in the heavies and kick the dimples off the pill when they needed to.

Similarly the Springboks need to evolve to a point where they are able to not only explore different avenues of attack, but be as effective in doing so as they are with their preferred kick-chase approach.

While their strategy is very effective at present, it must be a concern that that effectiveness leans heavily on excellent execution from their halfback pair of Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez. Both are experiencing purple patches, but there will surely be a stage when their form drops off, as it did at times during the Super 14, and this is when the Springboks will have to look to vary their play.

The backline has been under-utilised in recent Tests, and understandably so. The Springboks’ coaching staff have found a formula that works and would be fools to veer from that. It’s not a case of striking a balance. Why would you not want to maximise your strengths? But developing other facets of their play is crucial to sustained success.

How the Springbok coaching staff do that remains to be seen. It is certainly a difficult task, made more so by the fact that they have a limited time with the squad, and if they do succeed it will take time for them to function at optimal potency.

The Springboks struggled in 2006 when they were transitioning between a rush defensive system to a hybrid of that model and a more traditional up and in pattern, but by the 2007 World Cup they were a formidable defensive unit.

The evolution will take time and it is certain to be accompanied by growing pains. The end product, however, will be a side capable of dominating world rugby.

By Ryan Vrede