“Offence sells tickets. Defence wins championships.”
They say wise men learn from their own mistakes, but wiser men learn from other people’s mishaps.
Will this 2018 campaign demonstrate that the newly-appointed Springbok coach is a wiser man?
Judging from Rassie Erasmus’ selection for the opener against the Pumas on Saturday, he is demonstrating, at least for now, that he’s learned from his predecessors’ mistakes.
The cardinal sin that Peter de Villiers, Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee made was player favouritism.
No matter how poorly his players performed, they were always reselected. Of course, there is a shopping list of other contributing factors, such as incompetent assistant coaches, an outdated coaching approach to the modern game and a lack of intelligence from the head coach himself.
Whether Erasmus can navigate South Africa’s political waters in the season ahead is still an open question.
Much of what happens on Saturday will set his sails towards success or failure. With Willie le Roux scheduled to exit after his match against the Wallabies, Damien Willemse will slot in at the fullback position.
The first real test on Erasmus’ thinking will then be answered based upon who he favours as the backup flyhalf to Pollard.
Currently, we know it’s Elton Jantjies who has demonstrated beyond any doubt at this point that he would be, by a long shot, the weakest link in a Springbok 15.
One can only hope that Erasmus’ intelligence kicks into high gear and he changes his game plan.
As the season continues, look for Thomas du Toit to replace Frans Malherbe as the starting tighthead.
Embrose Papier will get his opportunity to step into Faf de Klerk’s role at scrumhalf when he exits midway through the Championship season, but Papier will have to play at his peak performance in the time he has off the bench to secure that role.
Both Ross Cronje and Ivan van Zyl will likely be called up if Papier fails to show any flashes of brilliance.
And so it begins.
New and improved? We can only hope for the best.
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