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Please Toetie, let's see some smart rugby

Allister Coetzee's games haven't gone to plan so far. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Roar Guru
1st June, 2016
41
1361 Reads

I am not sure who “they” are, but it has been said by them that ignorance is bliss. And for the better part of a decade one could be forgiven to think that the SARU has been blissfully ignorant.

From 2004 all the way to 2015 Rugby World Cup the Springbok mantra had been one of conservative game plans and structured thinking.

The appointment of Allister Coetzee should therefore not have been a surprise to anyone when you consider that his structured methodical approach to rugby has made the Stormers one of the more successful round robin pre finals teams over the past number of years.

When Heyneke Meyer was appointed, the country was buzzing with excitement, the “saviour” has arrived, he was going to pull South African rugby out of the 20th century and into the future.

Well, we all know about false prophets, don’t we?

This time round the expectations are more muted, we all know Allister Coetzee is conservative, his rugby is structured and there is method behind his thinking.

What we also know is Toetie has one of the best defensive records in Super Rugby and it is doubtful that he will move away from what has worked for him in the past.

The thing about being a rugby supporter is that you expect coaches and players to improve all the time, you expect them to see what works and adapt their game plan to new tactics and techniques.

You expect them to ‘be smart’, but then reality sets in and you come to the realisation that like old dogs, they don’t learn new tricks.

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So this time round I am not going to jump on the bandwagon of open running rugby because I simply do not believe Toetie is going to give me what I want.

Instead I am going to be more realistic in my expectations of what our new national coach is going to bring to the party.

I want to focus, therefore, on one thing and one thing only, changing the Springbok culture to one of smart thinkers.

During the tenure of Heyneke Meyer I advocated that Meyer clean house, get rid of the “old guard” with their debilitating mindsets and conservative approach to rugby, their inability to assess what is happening on the field of play and there for their inability to adapt to how they should play a certain referee or opposition team.

Thankfully when players refuse to let go and are stuck like shit to a wool blanket, Father Time comes to the rescue.

The first squad has been selected by Coetzee and truth be told I cannot really comment on his squad selections as I have not been following Super Rugby.

What I can comment on is the clear and obvious message Coetzee is sending to overseas players.

Okay, I am choosing to believe Toetie is sending out a message to overseas players and that the omission of so many overseas players are not because of injury and unavailability.

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It does get me to my point though.

It seems Coetzee is cleaning house. The first step to changing the culture of a team is to get rid of the poison. The poison being conservative mindsets.

I believe there are two types of smarts in this world, those who are naturally gifted and those who need to get book smart. What the Springboks need here is the former, not the latter.

Allister Coetzee must select naturally gifted players who can express themselves within the confines of his structure, players who have the ability to read the game, players who have the ability to observe and act in an instant.

I do not expect Coetzee to encourage his players to play without structure, I think he will go bonkers if he does not have structure in his team.

It is important, though, that the Springboks start playing with ball in hand rather than without it, and in that lies a huge concern when you consider the game plan of Coetzee.

All the natural talent in the world will be of no benefit to the Springbok team if they continue to play without the ball.

The natural tendency for Springbok teams to protect a lead, allow opposition teams to run at them at will and a propensity to kick possession away belongs to a culture past and Coetzee must change that culture.

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There is no doubt Coetzee’s Springbok team will dot the I’s and cross the T’s when it comes to set phases, ruck plays and defensive organisation.

But will he encourage his team to play with or without the ball, and will his selections prove to be that of smart players able to make smart decisions at the right time, and will they have ample opportunity to express themselves with a ball in hand approach or again live of the scraps fed to them by opposition mistakes only?

Only time will tell.