Goosen and Taute gets a pass mark in Springbok win
After watching last night’s performance of the Springboks versus the Wallabies my thoughts go back to the past seven Springbok Test matches.
It brings to mind utter frustration experienced due to inconsistent performances by the forwards, inaccuracy of goal kicking, the lack of numbers to the ruck, poor decision making and half baked executions.
There have been some serious questions asked about a number of players and the thinking behind their selections and also some added misery for the frustration felt by injuries to prominent players.
Losing Bismarck du Plessis, Schalk Burger, Coenie Oosthuizen and JP Pietersen were probably the biggest losses, which were compounded by the retirement and unavailability of John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith, Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie.
The fact is Heyneke Meyer has also been rather deliberate about the type of players he wanted to continue with, guys like Heinrich Brussow, Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh negated for bigger and stronger players.
It has taken seven tests, two gut wrenching draws and two frustrating losses for Meyer to change the makeup of his backline.
Granted, Goosen only came back from injury a month ago and ditto for Taute.
According to Meyer both these players have been in his long term plans since the beginning of the season.
After quite extensive experimentation with a largely inexperienced bunch of forwards it seems Meyer has found his group of players who rightly will be selected accordingly to opposition and conditions.
It has however been the back line that has been mostly ineffective in attack and rather pedestrian.
Enter Johan Goosen and Jaco Taute.
If ever there was a need for the Springbok back line to perform, simply to prove to Heyneke Meyer that decision making is something inherent to the individual player and that positive play can make a world of difference even within a conservative game plan, then it was tonight.
Although expectedly Goosen showed some nerves and Taute knocked his first contact with the ball, both came through the game with their reputations intact.
Although I don’t think there is any need to wax lyrical about their performances, there was definitely enough proof that a player that attacks the gain line, makes the right decision (albeit not every time) and has the ability to beat the defender can create gaps rather than simply run onto the opposition.
South Africa even though against an injury ravaged Wallaby team showed in the first half what a difference an attack-orientated backline can muster.
But let’s not forget it started with quick ball, the South African forwards in specific Duane Vermeulen and Frans Louw ensured quick ruck ball and were absolute menaces at the defending rucks.
Willem Alberts, Eben Etzebeth, Adriaan Strauss and Andries Bekker carried the ball forcefully and got behind the advantage line on numerous occasions, often offloading to the support player and avoiding the breakdown point.
This allowed Pienaar to provide crisp service to Goosen who in turn used his options well and got his backline over the advantage line and breaking the line on numerous occasions.
Bryan Habana once again showed his enthusiasm is back and was looking for work all night long, scoring a hat trick of tries.
Jaco Taute after dropping his first two balls, started gaining confidence and carried the ball with effect, was superb in defence and undoubtedly his extra pace at 13 made the difference on attack.
At the post match interview Meyer was adamant that the game plan has not changed, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, there were no new moves, no angled running and no fancy stuff, but what was different was the pace players ran onto the ball, the fact that with Goosen there the backline was not stationary and the runners were always looking for the offload.
If the intent is there to attack, that positive mindset is a darn sight better than crash balling into the defence at every given opportunity.
A thought to the wallabies, it is near impossible to be competitive in a match where the injury toll is so high that a team has to finish the last 10 minutes of a game with fourteen men.
Adam Ashley Cooper in my view is the epitome of Australian sport, his total commitment and never say die attitude should be an inspiration to his team and country, it makes one wonder how much pride a guy like Quade Cooper has for representing Australia when you see the commitment of his team mates that are lying bleeding and concussed on the sideline.
Kurtly Beale showed in the second half when he does get the opportunity to get front for ball why he should be the Australian ten.
It has been a step forward for the Springboks, but there are still some worrying issues, goal kicking again left a lot of points on the field, and the scrimmaging is not satisfactory.
The importance now is not to make too many changes, and allow these youngsters to settle.
It will still take them a few games to prove their worth, but I think there might just be a new era of positive Bok rugby ahead.