No hiding for the Boks now

As children, we are all taught to live by the axiom, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ By logical deduction, the corollary to this is, ‘If it is broke, fix it!’

In my previous columns, I said it was not time to panic and that the Boks will come right as they are a champion team with personnel who know how to win. However, it is time now for all and sundry (including myself) to admit that the Bok ship is broken, and that it is time for repairs.

Things were working well last year and we were winning consistently. However, we haven’t sought to stay ahead of the game and now find ourselves well behind the pace in the international game. We are feasting off last year’s menu and some players have sat at the table a lot longer than they should have done.
Some bold decisions need to be taken now. No one is safe. Reputation should count for nothing. Another chance given to a certain player who is not fulfilling his duties is just one less chance before the World Cup to find the perfect combinations. That said, I still feel there should be no panic, as we have the depth to come out of this rut.
The players look like they are bereft of a game plan, and more astonishingly, they are not doing the basics right. One could go into a lengthy debate about the standard of refereeing (which, to be honest, has been pretty appalling). However, the referee is not to blame for missed tackles, not rucking properly, ill-discipline and kicking when unsure of what to do (which seems to be 90% of the time).
 
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Yes, Pocock and McCaw get away with murder at the breakdown. But why is no-one clearing them out or getting to the tackle on time to mitigate their impact? Why, when a player makes a break, does he go into the contact situation alone and thus vulnerable to having the ball pilfered?

We all knew that travelling to New Zealand and Australia to play three matches straight up was no easy task. You have to be at your best, and both are in a determined mood to right the wrongs of 2009. The pace the All Blacks play the game makes defending nigh impossible, and given the Boks looked flat, it was always going to be a struggle.
But this is no excuse. John Smit, Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies and Bryan Habana look well below their best. Morné Steyn is not the answer at flyhalf under the new rule interpretations, and Zane Kirchner and Wynand Olivier have been found out at Test level for the second season in a row.
Rather lose with a new, exciting, and hungry team, than continue with the same team expecting different results.
I say give Schalk the captain’s armband and back him 100%. Then we can all wake up from this horrible nightmare.

This article originally appeared on The South African in 2010.

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