The Boks’ pivot conundrum
With the shenanigans of Mendoza and Dunedin behind us, it’s time to reflect. Let’s start here; the South African national rugby team have made it no secret they harbour the ambition of reaching rugby’s Everest in the near future.
I think it’s fair to say that the pivot position is one of the most influential positions on the rugby field and, as such, among the key determining factors as to whether this goal may or may not be attained.
It begs the question; why is the starting berth in this squad continually occupied by a man who, quite frankly, lacks the impetus to lead such a talented squad to this Promised Land?
Offensive potency, flair and capacity to attack the gain-line with purchase are all qualities the position is yearning for and with Morne Steyn’s creativity about as blunt as the other side of a knife, they remain as far as ever from world domination.
It is also cumbersome and entirely telling to note that the one world class quality he does possess (his kicking) has at times flattered to deceive this season. In fact, Steyn’s kicking was horrendous against the AB’s last weekend, which saw him spurn an opportunity for the Boks to turn their early dominance into points.
In the same breath, other options such as Elton Jantjies and Johan Goosen have excelled and matured in this discipline – among the other qualities they bring to the table. So, aside from experience, what advantage point does Morne have that allows him to don the number 10 jersey evidently unchallenged?
Think of it this way; in the days when this Blue Bulls style kicking game was employed, the Springbok squad had lineout stalwart Victor Matfield and his buddy Bakkies to pretty much swipe any and all lineout ball away from the opposition.
That era is well and truly behind us and, unless we are to witness the reincarnation of this 1-2 punch, we should consider shifting our mentality away from past successes and look forward to an identity which applies to our strengths.
In Johan Goosen, Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies – and perhaps even the forgotten man Peter Grant – the Boks have no shortage of options. In order to give any one of the aforementioned a fair opportunity, the Bok hierarchy need to show some courage and bring them into the set up immediately so as to allow them a chance to blossom and bring their own unique identity into the mix.
The indomitable force that is New Zealand is looking as imperious as ever. The Wallabies less so, but in comparison to the Bok side that was in many respects outclassed by the Pumas, they too are well ahead of us.
It is true that Heyneke and co. are in a process of crafting what they believe will be a formidable squad, with the inclusion of various young prospects in our forwards a positive sign; but to shoulder the arduous load of expectation that is the South African rugby fraternity, they must in turn allow any one of our talented incumbent pivots a run in the jersey. At least to show some ambition and a willingness to improve.
To insist further, and grant due credibility to the perhaps forgotten depth in the fly half position, I will surmise the credentials of each one of my preferred options.
Let me start off with Pat Lambie. The versatile back demonstrated, to critical acclaim, his abilities at fly half in the 2010 Currie Cup. His creative play invites the midfield to attack the advantage line with ferocity.
In addition, his mobile presence flat in the line allows for fluidity and pace on the attack which could, finally, give our flying wingers a bit of ball. He showed us his cool head under pressure by clinically dispatching of the hapless Bulls and Stormers in successive weeks in those Currie Cup play-offs. Now is the time for him to prove himself in a Bok jersey.
Elton Jantjies is perhaps the most exciting option. With bags of ingenuity and the audacity to attempt video-game stunts, he will add a new dimension. He can dazzle defences with his unpredictable play and draw their attention thus allowing the midfield more room to work their magic.
Many will point to the fact that his flamboyance has at times proved costly with his capacity to make the odd baffling decision a supposed weak point. But a look back at last season’s Currie Cup play-offs tells you all you need to know about this young man. He landed all his spot kicks in the semi-final and final, whereby he masterfully orchestrated a clinical dispatching of the Sharks in the final.
With the bold affirmation by Heyneke Meyer that Johan Goosen will one day be the best fly-half in the world, I have added motivation to call for his inclusion. If you’re to believe all the hype from South Africa, you’ll be led to believe that this is the next rugby great. You know what, he is!
Let’s now cross our fingers and hope that this immensely talented prodigy will be given his opportunity to live up to his billing. His performances for the Free State Cheetahs in Super Rugby before succumbing to injury were nothing short of scintillating. His goal-kicking which saw him lead all scorers in Super Rugby before his unfortunate injury was particularly eye-catching.
He has been given cameo appearances in the Boks’ last two Rugby Championship encounters, which were impressive. He has all the flair in the world and the undying conviction one would associate with Dan Carter. The Grey College phenom may get his opportunity to shine in the green and gold sooner rather than later.
It would be disrespectful in the least not to recognise Morne’s contributions, with his record-breaking three year run forming the backbone of the Boks relative success. But if we avoid looking back, and set our sights on future success, I can only imagine that the daring quest to hijack the All Blacks throne requires a much, much deadlier assassin.
And to ignore this reality could quite possibly spoil the Bok quest for world domination.
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