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Pumas outsmart predictable South Africa Posted over 1 year ago

The Pumas nearly pulled off a winning upset that would have been well deserved. Tactically they were way superior to the Boks. Argentina won the physical battle because they were much smarter in how they went about it.

The Boks seemed to think going harder would be the answer this week. Ball carriers predictably lining up to smash through another Argentinian gang tackle ended up in a mugging. The bullies were bullied. The Bok coaches need to rethink their strategy.

Of course rugby is a physical contest, one that you need to win. But it’s your brains, as much as your brawn, that helps you win this battle within a battle. Heyneke Meyer made his approach clear through his selections. By picking Jacques Potgieter and Willem Alberts in his loosies, Meyer signalled that subtlety and finesse weren’t going to play a major part in this contest. they are sledgehammers rather than rapiers

Outmuscling the Pumas in their own back yard isn’t simply a matter of giving hulking ball carriers one-out passes to t-bone over top of tacklers. The Argentinians are too proud and tough for that to happen. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is a phenomenal leader. Like other skippers before him, he gets the Pumas to grow extra muscles.

What South Africa needed was some subtlety. Run these behemoths at the defensive line, make the tacklers sit on their heels, then pass the ball. This would take Argentina away from gang tackles and allow ball runners to dominate one on one contests rather than lose two on one battles!

Of course, to do this you need backs coming forward with the runners to force defenders into making decisions. An uncertain defender will be sluggish in the tackle.

Instead South Africa sent a flat line of forward runners promoting themselves to receive the ball and a deep line of backs to get the ball behind the forwards. This made it too obvious which group was getting the ball, and allowed defenders to smash the forward runners or slide off on second-man plays to cut down backs or, at worst, end up pushing the outside backs to the sideline where the Bok wingers were always confronted with 2-3 Argentinian defenders.

Every move in the game should involve hiding and holding players. Holding players run strong decoy lines to commit defenders and stop them sliding off. Hiding players look like they are not interested, run as if they aren’t getting the ball then strike like cheetahs (or, like springboks escaping cheetahs!)

Instead, the Boks gave too many cues away about who is to get the ball, and the Pumas read them like a Wilbur Smith novel. Until the Boks come up with an attacking formula that allows them to hit either the forwards or the backs (or both in the same play) without sending obvious cues to the opposing defenders, they’ll continue to struggle with slow ball, defences that are set and little continuity.

In contrast, the Pumas were smart, had a clear tactic to get gain line through driving line outs or through forward runners shifting the point of attack using linking passes. You could tell that Graham Henry is already advancing theircoaching.

The Boks obliged with the first tactic by happily kicking the ball out and giving the Pumas driving opportunities. The second tactic allowed the Argentinian ball carriers to get their shoulders slightly past their South African tacklers. At the very least, this created an impression within the Bok camp that they were being outmuscled. Heyneke Meyer’s comments after the game that they let their country down and that they have to go harder at the breakdown supports this perception.

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez, who replaced the injured Hernandez, was a revelation. He took the line on and caused South Africa a lot of problems. Both Argentina’s half backs also had a significant influence. This is a team with ability, growing in confidence, who could be a threat far sooner than people think.

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Someone should take Meyer out to a game park and show him a Buffalo.

Look Heynecke! See that Buffalo? That is your players. Big, and f#$#@ stupid!

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South Africa over 1 year ago

nice article Wayne! Thoroughly enjoyed it – although still hesitant about letting others in on your expert trade secrets :-))

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Australia over 1 year ago

I certainly didn’t mean to sound like I was dismissing the qualities of Morne. For me he has consistently been the second best 1st 5 in world rugby since 2009 (after DC) and should have won IRB player of the year for his phenomenal performances that season. With Wayne saying Meyer has now included Goosen in the squad it will be interesting to see how much game time he gets – perhaps giving him 20 minutes off the bench similar to how the ABs introduced Cruden? Not sure exactly the injury status of Spies, Burger, and J Smith but the addition of those guys back into the pack (moving Alberts to lock) and their influence on the breakdown and link play would surely be a major boost and make life easier for whoever is at 10.

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

I would like to make use of this opportunity to stand in the gap for flyhalf Morne Steyn. I’ve been focusing on his game for the last few matches. As a flyhalf and backs coach, I know that it is critical for a flyhalf to have options. And I think that this might be the main reason for people criticising Morne. But when you take a closer look, it is actually because of the players around him that make him look like he is underperforming. Take this past weekend vs Argentina as an example: at one stage the Boks recieved very quick second-phase ball, Morne recieved a very flat pass from Francois Hougaard, commited two defenders and a short flat offload before contact was on, but where was Francois Steyn? Jean De Villiers? Jean eventually recieved the ball from Morne, but the pass had to go about 12m backwards . . . This gave the Pumas defence enough time to drift across and cut Habana off on the wing. This is only one of a huge number of examples. Now I want to comment on Pat Lambie vs Morne . . . As we all know, a flyhalf is the general of team. He makes the calls and talks a lot. A flyhalf needs to be a TEAM LEADER. Yes Lambie is a good runner with the ball (same goes for Johan Goosen), but I don’t think that either of them have the ability (yet) to to fill that type of leadership boots that you need a flyhalf to have. Both of them (and even Elton Jantjies) will get there, but they have to grow up first. I’m 22 years old at this moment, and if I had to be included into the Bok-squad as a flyhalf, it would’ve been very difficult for me to order guys like Jean, Bryan, Jannie and Beast around the park. The point I’m trying to make is that all the players in a team have to look up to the flyhalf. He must be seen as one of THE leaders in a team.

To end off: give Morne options and he WILL perform. Bring the other (young) flyhalves into the mix, but don’t push them. Give them time to mature. It took Morne 7 years of professional rugby to get to the Boks, but when he got there, he performed. Who will ever forget Morne’s kicking vs the B&I Lions AND his solo 31 points vs the All Blacks in 2009? Lambie, Goosie, and Jantjies are all great players, but give them time to become the best this world has ever seen . . . Have a nice day guys, and God bless ;)

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South Africa over 1 year ago

Hey guys, I think Heynecke may have made the first significant move to changing their game – he has brought Johann Goosen in. He is an incredible talent, plays an expansive game with Cheetahs and will be a revelation if given some license. I am convinced that the Boks have the athletes and skill level to play a 15 man game at test match level, and what’s more, I think it would inspire their players. How good would that be for a great rugby nation!

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

As was noted and posted the other day “Look out SA as in last couple games vs Pumas kicked a lot of possession away. Reacon Puma,s will preform better than most pundants expect, look forward to their style in the mix.” Hey Wayne it proved quite noteable the impact your coaching proved with the Cheifs Super Championship Well Done .

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

Hey Smallz, love your question! I’m no Wayne Smith but I reckon it’s more to do with the coaching. I think SA rugby have plenty of players capable of playing the “rapier” style of rugby Wayne’s advocating. Looking at all the backs SA has that can all ball play and have excellent evasive skills on attack – sidestepping, dummying etc. I think there are more than enough. Players that come to mind – Pat Lambie, Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon, Juan De Jong, De Villiers, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana to name a few. Even in the forwards there are plenty of SA forwards that are great ball carriers and can pass the ball.

It’ll be interesting to see if Meyer alters things towards this “rapier” style of play for the Boks. I have a feeling that the AB’s think if they can at least match it with the Boks physically, they should be able to outrun the big Boks side with their finesse and mobility late in their upcoming matches.

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

Thanks again for the piece Wayne. Without much disrespect for the man, I think Heyneke is a slow learner and also a tad stubborn. Bulls were at the bottom of Superrugby for 3 or 4 years before things happened for them. And it was much to do with the players recruited rather than coaching. (Matfield, Fourie Du Preez, Spies, Habana, Bakkies Botha, Dani Rossouw) These players were the best or close to the best at what they did in World Rugby at the time. In test rugby South Africans will not accept a 2 – 4 year building phase…especially when you draw with Argentina the way we did. There are so many obvious shortcomings in what he is trying to do I really question whether he has got the right attitude, temperemant and rugby intelligence for test rugby.

Wayne – from a coaching point of view, do you think the current crop of springbok players would be able to play the kind of game you advocate in your blog post? Or would you look at other personnel to execute the “rapier” style finesse you speak of? Or to be more blunt, is it the coaching or are the players not executing their game plan properly?

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South Africa over 1 year ago

Heyneke Meyer coached the Blue Bulls the same way: the SARU is getting what they paid for. I used to hate watching the Blue Bulls (they’re a little better now, but not much) because they bludgeoned teams to death. That they were often successful, made it worse in my personal book. They took a beautiful game and made it ugly. Why SARU thought HM’s formula could be successful at the international level is a mystery to me: it would be amazing if all of a sudden he learned to be subtle and to “hide and hold” players. I suspect there will be a couple of painful years for Springbok supporters while they live through inevitably protracted self-destruction of Heyneke Meyer.

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USA over 1 year ago

Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m off to the bookies and backing the ABs to go undefeated in 2012. With a solid set piece, dominant loosies, DC slotting goals, outstanding defence and so much talent out wide just can’t see anyone able to handle the pace for a full 80 mins.

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

I was very impressed by the Pumas and thought they were unlucky not to get the win. I thought they might struggle on attack but some of the build-up play to their try was outstanding – looking to off-load to runners hitting the ball at pace, and producing accurate quick ball at the breakdown. Lobbe has to be right up there with Read as the best 8 in world rugby. As for the Boks it seems unlikley they will make any major changes but with Steyn at 1st 5 they look very predictable and aren’t making the most of the talent outside him. Habana barely even touched it. If I was Meyer I’d give the reigns to Lambie and switch Francois Steyn to full-back….as a ABs fan hope he doesn’t.

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New Zealand over 1 year ago

_Graham Henry on Wayne Smith:_ "Wayne is the best coach I have ever coached with. He has a huge work ethic, does lots of research and has a great feel for the game. At the moment he is the defence coach and is also involved with our counter attacking strategy. He is a very thoughtful man and takes a major interest in how we use turnover ball. He has been going around with a little camera which he uses to track individual players for a whole game. It has proved quite embarrassing for some. There is nowhere to hide and the players soon learn where they have to step up. Top bloke."

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