Sour grapes on refereeing calls from Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has underlined how tactically lost the Springboks are as they come to grips with a philosophy of play that simply hasn’t delivered long-term greatness.
Drowning in the micro-details of uncontrollable happenings on a rugby pitch, where interpretations will always vary, is like the rat running furiously on a spinning wheel but getting nowhere.
During this unproductive spiral of nitpicking that seemingly occurs after every defeat, the Springboks’ current top brass have failed to understand the greatest strategic risk of all: that their own style of play is leading to these results that we have seen happen. produce over and over again. Again.
By design, they are set up to constantly fail, without their knowledge.
It was the risk of the “big picture” that went over their heads when they studied ruck interpretations or the psychological profile of their next umpire.
In one of his spilled milk tweets, Erasmus lamented the “small margins” that can decide a rugby test. Yes, but it’s largely thanks to you. It doesn’t have to be by small margins.
The All Blacks crushed Wales 55-23 a few weeks ago. It wasn’t decided by small margins, the contest was over long before the match. No refereeing decision in the game mattered.
It was the same Welsh side that toured South Africa in July, who came close to toppling the Boks in the first Test despite being down three players, and the side that won for the first time on the South African soil during the second.
When Ireland themselves beat New Zealand at home in July, they did so by nine points in the second Test and 10 points in the deciding match.
They did so by relentlessly pursuing trials and putting the game out of reach for the All Blacks, with plenty of room to weather the storms along the way.
When you reduce a game of rugby to saves, scrums and mauls, throw the ball excessively away and constantly put the ball in the hands of the opponent, you start to lose control of a certain number of results.
If you don’t want the ball, it’s up to the referee or the opponent to give it back to you, if you can’t get it yourself.
Playing a slow grind of a game also eats up the clock so much that neither side can really start, thus keeping the scores close until the end.
If you then have to rely on an umpire to whistle in your favor when it counts, there is a large extent to which the outcome is now out of your hands.
The Springboks had great defense at their peak, but no matter how many hits you make behind the win line or how many rucks under pressure, it’s not rewarded with points.
When you show little or no desire to break through a defense with the ball in hand and score tries, relying primarily on penalty goals, you are not putting the game out of reach.
The Springboks rarely bury an opponent, and do not get buried, under Erasmus or Jacques Nienaber.
That’s the deal they make playing a very limited brand of rugby focused on hard defending, mayhem and set pieces.
As a result, they won’t suffer brutal losses, but the flip side also means that the opponent is almost always on the hunt. As we have seen, lower-tier opponents have regularly triumphed over World Cup holders.
When the seventh-ranked Wallabies suffered three straight floggings at the hands of the All Blacks last year, they managed to pull off a win on the Gold Coast with one last breath. quad cooper sadness.
None of these beaten opponents were put to bed early.
It’s the main strategic flaw that seems lost on Erasmus as he turns to Twitter to deal with the latest tight loss.
How these games are decided is largely up to you, except you apparently haven’t figured out the main risk of your overall approach yet.
Ironically, applying the letter of the law to every situation wouldn’t help as it would lead to more penalties against the Springboks.
Sure, others would go their way, but just as many would go against them, leaving them in a better place than they are now. Basically, nothing else changes.
This is because the appeals go both ways and there are so many examples of criminal offenses committed by South Africa that go unpunished.
They frequently lost the ball in attack as the cleaners constantly flew away, sealing the ball with sloppy execution or desperate side entries from illegal positions.
But Erasmus doesn’t want that. He wants more calls to fall on the way to South Africa. He is not interested in calls that go against his opponent. We don’t see them.
He needs those calls because the Springboks’ whole house of cards hinges on it, and when that doesn’t work they have a scapegoat easy to blame for the loss, even if they sometimes choose by choice to play one of worst rugby styles. seen by mankind.
It should not be forgotten that this is not how South African teams of yore played, who buried their opponents by wide scorelines with excellent attacking play, even from deep within their own half. Bryan Habana did not score 67 test tries for no reason.
This era did not build a world-class offense. They haven’t taken the game to new heights. Their backline stars are too often caged and left to starve without enough quality ball to really shine. They haven’t adapted and have been reluctant to renew the team with new players since 2019.
Would he win more than 60% of the tests? Would they win more than three out of 11 against the other five most tested nations in this World Cup cycle?
At some point, you have to wake up and smell the roses, because in the long run, you can’t escape averages. A rough call may cost you a test, but it won’t cost you six or seven.
In a zero-sum game of wins and losses, it’s a clear measure as daylight to tell you where you are.
And that’s what he says: that’s as far as this style of play takes you. The fact that it doesn’t bring you more wins is no one’s fault but your own.