I know you don't like Super Rugby anymore, but...
I know that there’s too much rugby in the schedule. I know that you don’t like the Super Rugby format. I know that there are more logs to look at then there used to be. I know you liked the old way better.
I know it’s complicated. I know that whatever your suggestion is for what it should be is better. You don’t even have to tell me what it is. Oh wait...you’re telling me what it is.
Whoah. As I knew already, that is a totally flawless suggestion. All issues reconciled in one fell swoop. You should definitely work for SANZAAR. Scratch that. You should work for the United Nations.
Sorry, but could you keep it down with all the rugby fixture theory? Thing is, I’m actually more interested in the rugby itself.
Like what's going on right behind you right now. Looks like the Blues have got their act together and are giving the Highlanders a run for their money. Man, looks like some good rugby in this black hole of a tournament. Oh look, now the Brumbies look hell of a polished.
Looks like this new bonus point system has kept the game interesting for longer. Maybe we should just sit down and watch how it...oh right. You weren’t finished telling me how hard it’ll be to follow. I agree with that. And that. Man, I just can’t stop nodding at what you’re saying.
Tell you what. Sorry for the lack of eye contact, but I’m just going to keep nodding with you while I watch the Cheetahs game. Ja, I know we’re diluting the tournament by including Argentina. I know that it’s a...whoah...you see that starting team? That’s almost their full World Cup side. Could be history-making stuff here. Want to watch it? Oh, sorry. I didn’t realise that you weren’t finished talking about proper ways to grow rugby viewership around the world.
Sorry man. Have to call it a night now. Continue this chat tomorrow? Cool.
Morning. Must say, didn’t think you’d be here at 6am. You must have lots more to get off your chest. Mind if I turn on the Lions game while we hang out? I know you said “Don’t get me started on Japan in Super Rugby”, so you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want...oh look, you want to get started on Japan in Super Rugby.
Sorry, do you mind moving a bit out the way? You’re blocking the...yoh! Looks full there. But ja, I agree that they really shouldn’t be there. And I agree with that point about Japan. And that point. And that point. Okay, that point might be a bit racist, but I'll let it slide and keep nodding.
You’re right. Less classic matchups like the old days. Like the Crusaders versus the Chiefs and the Waratahs versus the Reds. Oh look. They’re on now. Want to watch? Oh sorry. No please, keep going about how it’s not the same anymore.
Sorry man. I just need to pop out for some life admin. I thought it would be a good idea to do it during the Force vs Rebels game. Ja, I know their inclusion started this whole rot.
Oh, there’s more to it than that? Tell you what, I’ll just record it in case something happens, you stay here and keep talking about how Super Rugby just traps you to the couch all weekend with meaningless rugby and I’ll check you later.
Hey man. Sorry I had to pop out. Should we start the braai? Figured we could get it going before the Sharks game kicks off. Oh, I’m sure you do have plenty to say about the Kings. Can’t wait to hear it.
Yip, I agree with that point. And that point. And that point. Okay, that point might be a bit racist, but...yoh, you check that offload? Also looks like Willie’s having a good game. Sharks look like they might be good to watch this year. Oh ja. I forgot. “Just the Kings.” Nod. Nod.
Cool, Stormers vs Bulls. Let’s do this. Ja, you’re right. Players going overseas has totally ruined this game. It’s just taken the...yoh, what a tackle!...sting out of local derbies.
Check, game’s opening up and the Stormers are looking pretty good. Sorry, what was that? I didn’t catch what you said about how kak it is that they won’t play against everyone. I was too busy watching who they are playing now.
Yoh! What a game. You have to go? All right. Cheers man. It’s been real.
What did you say? “Same again next weekend?”
Sorry man. I’m...busy.
Finally, the not-so-long-awaited Simply Sean World Cup squad.
Well, we're all making our own group of 31. It's an implied contractual obligation one has as an armchair rugby pundit.
Below is the Simply Sean South African World Cup squad. Like an international coach, I've chosen not to come out and explain my selections unless I've been prompted by questions. If you do have questions, feel free to ask them (either direct them on Twitter to @SimplySean_ or on the Simply Sean Facebook page) and I will try to answer them on this post.
SIMPLY SEAN WORLD CUP SQUAD
Props (5): Beast Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Steven Kitshoff, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe
Hookers (3): Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Schalk Brits
Locks (4): Eben Etzebeth,Victor Matfield (vice-captain), Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit
Loose Forwards (5): Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow
Scrumhalves (3): Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Cobus Reinach
Flyhalves (3): Patrick Lambie, Morne Steyn, Handre Pollard
Centres (4): Jean de Villiers (captain), Damien de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Lionel Mapoe
Wings (3): Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo
Fullbacks (1): Wille le Roux
An excellent first question. Well, not really a question, but an excellent point that needs an answer.
Personally, I haven't been given any directives on the racial composition of my squad. If I were given some, I'd be more than happy to edit the squad so that it complies with them.
Negatives? Yes. Death knell? No.
MORE GLOOM, LESS DOOM
As coach speak goes, “We’ll take the positives” is not just a post-match platitude, it’s one of the most obvious ones of them all.
Of course people take positives from situations. How awful would life be if you didn’t? Taking positives after a loss shouldn’t be seen as just papering over cracks. It should be seen as obvious practice if you want to even bother getting out of bed and preparing for, say, playing the All Blacks on Saturday.
That said, after a loss, the negatives are obviously more important because therein lies the why.
Any cheap teambuilding manual will tell you to build on the positives and work on the negatives.
With that in mind, the nicest way that you can phrase it after that loss is that the Springboks still have a lot to work on.
Firstly, no matter what you think of the final TMO decision (this armchair TMO says fair try), that game was there to be wrapped up well before that took place. With a good scrum, forward momentum and a defence that was mostly doing just fine, a team should have all it needs to close out a game properly.
How did the Springboks botch up following through with a win after being 20-7 up just after half time? Well, let’s start with the most eye-popping statistic. In the second half, South Africa had 21% possession and 14% territory.
The Australians spent the vast majority of the half with the ball putting the Springboks under pressure. The Springboks kept failing in relieving it.
There were a few reasons for that and the most important ones were easier to spot. The scrum malfunctioned after the bench came on, David Pocock’s master cameo certainly didn’t help and the open play kicking just flat out didn’t work.
Everyone loves a bitch at how the Springboks kick. It’s a go-to knee jerk reaction after a loss even for fans that didn’t watch. “Boring old Boks back to their boring old kicking” and all that.
Usually, if the team’s kicking fails, it should be a debate as to whether the problem was execution or volume. In Brisbane, it was probably both.
Persisting with up and unders that don’t work can seem like continually banging your head against a brick wall. Bombing high balls against Australian players (who, if they play rugby union, they’ve definitely at least had a look at Aussie rules) can seem like continually banging your head against a brick wall that has a sign on it saying “Warning: banging your head against this wall will be sore”.
It screams of South African players resorting to a familiar yet very limited comfort zone. If they are going to seriously feature in this World Cup, they’re going to have to work kicking differently. If kicks can’t be contested effectively in the air, then they need to go into space. If the space isn’t there, keep the ball and work the opposition around until it is (unless you’ve organised enough space to run into, of course).
That’s all easier said than done, but hey, no-one’s ever claimed that winning the World Cup was easier done than said.
As for straight up exit rugby, that Springbok team looked to be light when it came to getting distance off the boot. Some players must either work on connecting their kicks better or Meyer must seriously think about bringing in players who will kick further. You can be as romantic as you want about running rugby, but it’ll all come to nought if you don’t have some decent clearing kicks to relieve pressure.
Even with all the minuses from that game, you still have a whole host of singular what ifs to choose from on what could have swung a mighty close game the Springboks way. A missed touch kick here, botching up running down the clock there as well as a touch and go TMO decision which, as modern rugby constantly shows us, will be everywhere.
You can choose any one of those that would’ve ended up being match-winning, but the truth is that winning is not the only thing. It’s definitely the most important, but it’s not the only thing. Especially in a World Cup build-up.
Say one of those what ifs did happen and South Africa won, it would be wrong to just take the win without taking the negatives. That would be papering over the cracks.
The important negatives don’t change regardless of the result.
As for positives, you can find quite a few without being too desperate in your digging. Some of them were even surrounded by pre-match question marks. All those fetchers in one team? Resulted in turnovers aplenty. Schalk Burger at number 8? Big tick. Jesse Kriel on test debut? Definitely earned another pre World Cup look. Lood de Jager on the back of a long injury? Sen-bloody-sational.
When you pair the above with what was mostly a fantastic defensive display, a couple of sexy tries and some sound scrumming from the old guard, you’ll find that the Springboks have plenty of things to build on.
Losing away to Australia in World Cup year is not a death knell. After all, South Africa lost there in 2007. So did New Zealand in 2011.
However, it’s now been 3 losses out of 4 test matches for South Africa and none of those games were against the All Blacks. They need to start winning if they want any kind of meaningful momentum going into the World Cup. Just judging a team on World Cup results is going full Straueli. Never go full Straueli.