Argentina vs Springboks: The horror…the horror…

Awful. Horrible. Painful. Every time you close your eyes and try not to think about it, the pain just gets worse. How can there be so much such mindless banging it up? I guess it was predictable. But enough about my hangover.

Heyneke is not happy

Saying that Saturday’s 16-all draw with Argentina has caused some anger among South African fans is the biggest understatement in rugby since the protestors of the infamous ‘flour bomb’ test in 1981 were described as “being a bit miffed”.

Plenty of the vitriol that’s been spewed has been justified, even if it hasn’t been preceded with the contractual obligation of preceding it with “All credit to Argentina”. However, saying that it went against people’s expectations of seeing some more imaginative rugby is way off the mark.

The build-up to this test made it obvious that the game-plan was going to be as monolithic as possible. How else do you interpret dropping the whippetty Keegan Daniel for the behemoth frame of Jacques Potgieter (especially when the selection required moving the other behemoth frame of Willem Alberts into a position that generally requires more whippettiness)?

Another Bull with great hair that underperforms on the field.

You can’t look at that selection, choose to watch the game, and then act in surprise about the team’s lack of creativity. It makes sense to get upset at the level of execution of the game-plan, but complaining about a lack of imagination is just not reading what was on the tin. It’s like going to eat at a Spur, getting upset about your cold onion rings and complaining about the fact that they didn’t bring you sushi.

The pack was sold to us as a reactive selection to the powerful onslaught the Argentinean forwards would bring. Heyneke Meyer said the Springboks needed extra bulk in the pack to deal with that, so he acted accordingly. Then they couldn’t deal with the power of the onslaught. It is one of those things that is often described on Twitter as #thatawkwardmoment.

In a team performance that far below standard, it’s probably futile to single out scapegoats on the field. In fact, it would gravely underemphasize the collective frailty to attribute it to the shortcomings of certain individuals. So let’s get started, shall we?

If Heyneke Meyer plans to give some individuals some serious tongue-lashing treatment in the Springbok post-match video session, he would be well served to organize a guest appearance from Nick Mallett. We all thought that he would be a huge asset to the SuperSport panel, but who could have predicted that we would watch a test match and his post-match comments would make him the undoubted man of the match?

We’ve all known how passionate he is about all things rugby, but it’s still extraordinary to witness the sheer and utter determination he has to make sure he stays off Andries Bekker’s Christmas card list. Bekker’s chronic back problems could well have been a major factor, but the fact is that it was a lock performance that did not meet up to expectations.

All eyes were always going to be on Jacques Potgieter after the sheer volume of rumbling disagreement around his selection. It must be brought up that he was picked for a job that he has been way less effective at doing since he injured his kneecap in May. However, if he is going to put in a performance like that, he would be better served if he cut his hair if he wants to negate public criticism. If he’s going to be that ineffective at the collisions, he should follow Pierre Spies’s example of making sure he looks more anonymous.

Okay, that’s enough individual banging, even if it feels cathartic. We all know that those mentioned weren’t alone by disappointing in the forward pack, and we all know that the halfback service was sluggish and some option-taking conservative.

While some nasty questions of outside backs are well worth asking, far too much energy has been spent trying to attribute specific selection failures in that area. Expecting any backline to do something special with the quality of ball that was on offer against Argentina is (to paraphrasethe late Tony Scott’s Top Gun) just ego writing cheques that a backline can’t cash. That team could have had Tim Horan, Philippe Sella, Serge Blanco, even Vernon Philander and they still would’ve struggled.

The key is to avoid panic, and remember that Heyneke Meyer is a winner and a great rugby man. His post-match assessment was frank and to the point, and he deserves his opportunity to turn it around.

Recent performances do require drastic improvement. Most fans anticipated lengthy debates in 2012 about the pros and cons of ‘winning ugly’. As for ‘losing ugly’ (it should be treated as a loss, as the Springboks were definitely lucky to make up the deficit), well that doesn’t do anything for endearing the nation to the sport, does it?

Let’s see how the current Springbok regime tries to turn it around. They are well aware that just when you think a Springbok loss is unacceptable, the game ends in a draw.

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About the Author

Simply Sean lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and is a sports fanatic that flirts with the line between well-informed and unhealthily obsessed. He follows his beloved Stormers, Springboks, Proteas and Wolverhampton Wanderers with unbridled passion. Friends of his love to be near him in times of victory, and know to stand well back in times of defeat. Whether his teams win or lose, a penny for his thoughts remains a sound investment, That is, quite simply, Sean. Find his other ramblings here: www.simplysean.co.za