Sport / Columnists

Jon Swift
3 minute read
4 Oct 2017
12:58 pm

A damning indictment, but some do agree

Jon Swift

It is a sad indictment of the state of South African rugby that two members of the usual gathering would independently hold identical views to two of the men charged with coaching the national side.

Jon Swift

Bok defensive coach Brendan Venter’s remarks that “if winning is all you see, stop watching”. But even more damning was the indictment of head coach Alister Coetzee. “We will prepare to win, but the reality is that people who believe the Springboks can beat the All Blacks in Cape Town, after just over three months together, are living in a fool’s paradise,” Coetzee said.

In the light of the 57-0 thrashing at the North Harbour stadium in Albany by the New Zealanders a fortnight ago, just two weeks before taking on the side which has already clinched this season’s Rugby Championship, Coetzee is probably right. But it doesn’t make him or the side he mentors any more popular.

And while a number of the comments emanating from Biggles, so called for his propensity to wear Snoopy-style goggles with his crash helmet, cannot be accurately reported in mixed company, it was clear that the 27-27 draw with the Wallabies at the weekend did not exactly fill him with the joys of spring or an overwhelming love for his fellow man. Among his more repeatable observations from Biggles were “Terrible, just terrible,” and “No fire. No clue.”

In a far more reasoned manner, the Former Free State Hooker had an equally scathing yet lower-key assessment But it is sufficient to say that it ran roughly parallel to that held by Biggles and the coaches.

“It looks a lot like the Springboks are just going through the motions,” he said. “They had almost everything going for them against the Wallabies,” he said. “We had drawn with the Australians in Perth. Now they were at altitude and in Bloemfontein with a hostile local crowd against them.

“I admit that the refereeing probably didn’t go their way, but you still have to play the game the way it pans out. And it is amazing that Israel Folau got away with yanking Dillon Leyds off his feet by his hair. That should have been a straight red card and probably would have been if Eben Etzebeth had not taken matters into his own hands.

“The incident got me thinking that this would be unlikely to happen if Warren Whiteley had been captain. He might not be the greatest No 8 in world rugby, but he has a great work ethic and a calm presence that keeps control. His groin injury is a disaster and if the Boks are serious about improving on the last two games, they would be crazy to risk him on the overseas tour. Whiteley is too valuable to sacrifice.

“I’m also not convinced about the Bok centres. You can have two very good players selected to play together, but they never click and unless they are a true pairing tend to drag one another down rather that lift one another up. My personal opinion is that they are good Super Rugby players who have not moved up a level.”

This was not exactly what you expect from two hardened Springbok supporters – never mind two coaches at the top level in this country. But it was left to Biggles to get in the last word. “I wonder,” said Biggles, “if Bangladesh will send us a rugby team”.

It is something for the coaches to think about.