Demanding more from awful Boks

MARK KEOHANE, in his weekly Business Day column, says this has been a desperate end-of-year tour for the Springboks, and to criticise them does not make one unpatriotic.

From a distance this Springbok tour has only depressed me. Does that mean the Springboks depress me? No. Does this mean there is no hope? No.

Forget what next year could hold. Let’s deal in real time with the considerable disappointment for those of us who appreciate the potential within South African rugby and the quality of player that makes up South African rugby.

Each to his own, be it in acknowledgment or denial, but I find it an insult to South African rugby that so many are so willing to call a win a win and dismiss any dismay as disparagement of the Bok coach, management, players and just anti-South African.

Why is there such irrational and ignorant investment of energy? I can’t explain the conservatism of the Springboks’ approach — and I am referring to the coaching staff.

I expected more and rightly so. I’ll take an ugly win in the World Cup final and I’ll take an ugly win every time if it is against the All Blacks. There are times a team will win ugly, but very good teams with aspirations to be great teams mostly win with a swagger more than a stagger.

I know the Bok players have character and that they take seriously the responsibility of playing for South Africa and excelling as national players. If you have to applaud them for this then they’re in the wrong profession. It’s a given.

I understand that among the goals of the Boks between this year and 2015 is to concede the least points in world rugby and to concede the least tries. Nowhere is there talk of scoring the most points and scoring the most tries.

Christmas can’t come soon enough, and I hope the gift of introspection comes wrapped with whatever else makes its way to the home of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer and his support staff. Nothing has been gained from this tour. The Boks can tackle. The Boks can maul. The Boks have character.

I don’t want South Africa to be New Zealand. I want them to be South Africa. Good Springbok teams have always played rugby. The good ones have had more than just character, a desire to tackle and an effective mauling technique.

The good, very good and great Bok teams have trusted their basic skills and believed that the true expression of their talent is in scoring tries and points — and not in how few are conceded.

I have never understood the flippancy with which the words ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ are used within the Bok context. To condemn the Springboks’ performance in Dublin and Edinburgh is apparently a negative. To applaud the win is to be patriotic, passionate and positive. Again, each to their own.

I prefer ‘accurate’ and ‘inaccurate’ when assessing the Boks. Is it accurate to laud a win fashioned by an intercept try and supposedly brutal defence in the last 20 minutes against a side ranked 10 in the world who a week earlier conceded 50 points against the All Blacks?

To talk of being the best requires more than a PowerPoint presentation and a Vince Lombardi quote.

Heyneke Meyer, my preferred choice as Bok coach, seems convinced 2012 was always going to be a struggle and survival was a more appropriate ‘go to’ than sensation. I haven’t been floored by this defeatist attitude but I have been dazed and deflated.

Apparently to tackle is to care if you are a Bok. Apparently to attack is to risk despair.

Where’s the cheer been in this tour? Where’s the evolution?

A week ago I wrote of the fear of failure within the Boks and the restrictive approach that rewards no risk and the possibility of a mistake.

The Boks, regardless of who coaches them, should have beaten Ireland and Scotland. Both teams are inferior in every aspect. Both teams currently don’t have the pedigree of player to threaten a side with the player resource of South Africa.

I will always have an expectation of a nation with two World Cup titles. To demand anything less is to not care; alternatively not to know.

The players know it has been an awful tour in performance and quality. Perhaps more applicably it has been a desperate tour.

I won’t apologise for demanding more from the coach and the players.

A week ago I said the players should embrace the adventure. Some pounced on this as results not meaning anything. Of course they mean everything, otherwise there wouldn’t be a score and there wouldn’t be a winner. But to accept the post-match virtues of character and player pride for the Bok jersey is to accept being second best.

I won’t, and the optimist in me thinks neither will those who assess the Bok performance instead of excusing the lack of performance.