THE Springboks will be banking on this gameplan for the 2011 event.

MIKE GREENAWAY

THE Springboks will be banking on the game plan blueprint of the 2007 Rugby World Cup triumph at the 2011 event. This was much suggested in the naming yesterday of what amounts to be a preliminary Springbok Rugby World Cup squad that bares little difference to that of France four years ago and then confirmed when Peter de Villiers pointed to last November’s victory over England at Twickenham as the way forward, if that is the correct turn of phrase.

It is going to be a hugely contentious debate leading up the Boks’ title defence. Can the Springboks continue to successfully play the same way as ever while the game is continuing to evolve towards favouring the team that keeps the ball? Last year’s Tri-Nations hinted strongly that the strangulation game was up for the Boks but this was countered by De Villiers’ colourful contention that “the recipe was good – we just did not have the right pots and pans”, an allusion mainly to the absence of Fourie du Preez, the principle protagonist of the Boks’ brilliant kick-and-chase strategy of 2009.

As always in rugby, it is problematic to compare one year with another. In 2009, when a Springbok team at its absolute prime enjoyed unprecedented prevalence over the All Blacks, the Kiwis were in a rebuilding phase and the law focuses regarding freeing up quick ball at the break down were in their infancy.

The next year, the leaden-footed Boks were given a Tri-Nations hiding by adversaries that had bought into the new game. From champions in 2009 they won just once in 2010, a last-minute victory over the Wallabies in Pretoria.

The big question is this: is the Boks’ game plan out of date or was it simply a case of it being badly implemented in 2010? Can the Boks prevail in New Zealand or will the Cup go to a team that keeps the ball, which would be a first in World Cup history?

This year’s Super Rugby has already added fuel to the fire. The Bulls have Fourie du Preez back and while he personally does not look too bad, his team are playing wretchedly. Again, it is the question of whether it is the players (who are off-key) or the game plan.

De Villiers is convinced that the strategy is sound (make no mistake, the Boks played Bulls rugby on their end-of-year tour under Victor Matfield’s captaincy, not that it would have been different under John Smit.) And Bulls rugby is not far off what the Boks played under Jake White. To paraphrase – you dominate the set pieces and the tackle, you play territory with the kick-and-chase, you crank up the pressure via mechanisms such as the driving maul and earn penalties, and then you kick the goals.

The Boks were very poor at this against Scotland in November but then smashed England off the park, which is what De Villiers highlighted yesterday.

The thing is, England are not Australia or New Zealand.

The Sharks versus Crusaders match last week showcased rugby at its best and the Northern Hemisphere took serious notice.

But De Villiers did make one good point yesterday when he pointed out that competition rugby tends to be different to tournament rugby. Teams get increasingly conservative as the pressure cranks up.

Will this be the first World Cup where the team that keeps the ball wins? Again a question that nobody can really answer, which is what makes team sport so special.

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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