Saturday, November 27

Will the Springboks be able to move beyond their approach that the end justifies the means? | South Africa rugby team


OROne of the funniest moments of this British & Irish Lions tour came on the eve of the third test when a South American journalist asked the representatives of the Springboks if the decisive game of the weekend was indeed a game of preparation for the next Rugby Championship. Given that South Africa kicks off that competition with back-to-back matches against Argentina, starting on Saturday, the highest score for working the home angle, but by beating the Lions, it feels like the Springboks’ No. 1 goal for the year has already been achieved.

It does raise an interesting point though, because going back to World Cup prep, South Africa has made a virtue of having their backs to the wall, of being against the clock, of Chasing the Sun, and they have enjoyed the narrative of having to overcome adversity.

Judging them solely by results, a World Cup win and a Lions series, you can’t say they haven’t been successful, but it’s still become a way to excuse the fact that they’re not exactly fascinating to watch. . In this series, South Africa has welcomed any accusations that they are “boring” – Handre Pollard responded by saying that the only thing more beautiful than South Africa’s style of play was his wife.

And it was exactly the same in the run-up to the World Cup. On the eve of the final against England, then-head coach and now rugby director Rassie Erasmus said: “If you understand where we come from, we have certain challenges. One of them was always redeeming ourselves and going back to being a powerhouse in world rugby.

“By doing that, you have to have some building blocks in place, and we have followed a certain route, and we have played what gives you good results in the short term and on the scoreboard. We certainly accept that there are some things in the game that we have to improve, and we take it seriously. ” Now, you could argue, it’s time to start making those improvements.

For while the collective’s power within the Springboks should be commended given how badly their preparations to face the Lions were disrupted, an approach whereby the end justifies the means should be expected to broaden. Both for your benefit and for the sport in general, it almost feels incumbent.

Taking the second point first, Erasmus is unlikely to lose sleep over the slap on the wrist that comes from World Rugby, but the hour-long videos, rants, ploys to slow down the game and stop it, the medical staff is standing inside. At times during this series, the barking instructions to the players and the endless murmuring have undeniably lowered the tone. World Rugby has been desperately slow to act throughout and can’t help but wonder if a firmer hand early on from the would-be adults in the room could have led to a bit more overall maturity.

Siya Kolisi, the captain of South Africa lifts the trophy as his team celebrates their victory in the third round.
Siya Kolisi, the captain of South Africa lifts the trophy as his team celebrates their victory in the third round. Photograph: David Rogers / Getty Images

Also, for the benefit of the Springboks, a long-term vision is now required. They have some incredibly talented players at their disposal: Lukhanyo Am, Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende have been featured artists in this series, and Cheslin Kolbe is the box office whenever they can get him the ball. But even though Morne Steyn’s winning kick makes a good thread, shouldn’t it alarm the Springboks that there were so few alternatives to a 37-year-old reserve half? The vast majority of those who have come out against the Lions are either on the wrong side of 30 or going that way and there are obvious concerns about the next generation of talent.

Certainly there are some talented players within the franchises, but the jury is still out on whether the new image of the United Rugby Championship will enhance the player’s career. Pro14 were rarely known for their high-level matches with the majority of international players on display, and while efforts have been made to avoid overlap with the testing schedule, it remains to be seen how many senior players from the Springboks, Ireland, Wales and Scotland will travel between continents.

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While South Africa has avoided the catastrophe that would have been the cancellation of a series of Lions, the shortfall in lost revenue is slightly less devastating. They would have loved to have the 2023 World Cup, as initially recommended, to make up for it, but without it they will likely need the help of World Rugby. It’s a great shame, but in that context it’s easy to see why, for Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber, the ends may continue to justify the means for a while longer.


www.theguardian.com

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