HOW TO CATCH THE ALL BLACKS by Bok coach Meyer

The Boks flew out of Paris yesterday in chipper mood after having ended their year with an 83 percent success rate following their gutsy 19-10 win over France, but already coach Meyer is focussed on what the Boks have to do better next year to beat the All Blacks.

He said there are two main areas where the All Blacks are better – they are fitter and they have a superior kicking game, which is ironic because for decades, kicking was just about all the Boks could do while the Kiwis, conversely, have historically kept the ball in hand.

Meyer feels the Boks have caught up in other respects, and pointed out the mental toughness his team showed in being able to “win ugly”, as he put it, when the France game regressed into an uninspiring arm wrestle in the freezing cold of the Stade de France.

Meyer said the reason the All Blacks beat the Boks in the humdinger at Ellis Park in October was because they were better conditioned, and literally ran away with the game in the final quarter.

In those closing stages, the All Blacks’ pace exposed Wille le Roux (in the unfamiliar position of wing) on defence to score tries and then their cover defenders twice reeled in the flying Le Roux to affect try-saving tackles.

“We will not beat the All Blacks until we can catch up to their level of conditioning,” Meyer said. “Their superiority there was evident on the fast, dry pitch of the Highveld, which produced a very quick game.”

When he talks of conditioning, the coach also means literally the “condition” of the players. Many a Bok player this year was played into the ground, none more so that Jean de Villiers, who played every Super Rugby and Springbok game plus a handful of Currie Cup games. Willem Alberts is another who was nursed from game to game.

It is not for Meyer to say it, but there was also the case of Jannie du Plessis at the Sharks, who played the Currie Cup final with a broken bone in his hand but then was not fit to tour with the Boks.

It simply would not happen in New Zealand, where the top 150 players are contracted to the NZRU, as are the franchise coaches, and the national interest always comes first. In South Africa, the provinces own (and pay) the players and the coaches.

“We need a national conditioning plan,” said Meyer. “I only have the players for 12 weeks, and when they come to us, some of them are not fit enough, but what can we do about it when we are playing a Test that week? We need a national plan, with the players coming to us at the Boks once a month for testing, and, if necessary, I can say to an individual: ‘You are lagging behind, get up to the required level or you won’t be picked.’”

Regarding the superior kicking game of the All Blacks, Meyer again highlighted the perks of a country that is able to implement national strategies.

“In 2009, when the Boks beat the All Blacks three times in one season, a big part of it was their immaculate kicking game (much of it the kick-and-chase strategy involving Fourie du Preez and wingers JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, which exposed the big but clumsy Kiwi wingers),” Meyer said.

“The NZRU got all their coaches together and said: ‘the only way to beat the Boks is to improve our kicking game. They got in (Aussie) footie coaches to address this area throughout their franchises and suddenly wings that could not catch or kick are experts at it,” Meyer said. “In our last game, they kicked 42 times, twice more than us.”

But because the All Blacks are also so good at counter-attacking, they are remembered for the great tries they score, not for the amount of tactical kicking they do.

“You can’t out run them because they are too fit, and then they out kick you. They are actually beating us at our own game – people don’t see it,” Meyer said.

“We are almost there,” Meyer summarised, “But we need to come together as a country. I only have the players for a limited period of time. I need buy in. I can’t do it alone. I want the national Under-21s and Under 19s to play the same way as the Boks, and for the Academies across the country to be coaching from the same book.

“We need a national blue print. It is hard for me to fix things at the Boks when I get the players a week before a Test match. Things must get fixed at a lower level. We should have (national coaches) such as Pieter de Villiers (Bok scrum coach), travelling around the country coaching, and Rich Gray (breakdowns) doing the same.

“Then, when I get the players, we can concentrate on fine-tuning the game plan for the specific opponents in front of us.”

by Mike Greenaway

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

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