Too much rugby for the Springboks

The Springboks have now lost 3 games in a row after a rather mediocre couple of games against Italy. They have looked flat and unimaginative but talk of firing the coaches and senior players is premature.

With so much emotion and passion vested in our team, when the Springboks lose, we are left hurt and let down and this soon turns to frustration, anger and throwing of phones, remotes and small children at TV sets.

Emotions aside however, let’s have a closer look at the actual state of Springbok rugby.

The referees were inconsistent in all three games although Paddy O’Brian, IRB board referee boss, does not agree with this observation and like it or not he has the final say over who refs where and over which games. There is nothing you can do about the refs except adapt to their interpretations on the field on the day. The Springboks have failed to do this in all three recent Tests.

Say what you want about the coaches, this Bok management team have a very good record and that is what they should be historically judged on. Pieter de Villiers makes confusing statements, he always has. Lately his comments about the referees and implications of cheating have not aided the team and has led to him being called a ‘clown’. People are judging him on his comments though and not his coaching ability.

The current Bok players rate him highly. John Smit, Schalk Burger, Butch James, Victor Matfield, and Jaque Fourie have all said as much and have spoken of being happy with the coach, his coaching style and approachable attitude. Fourie du Preez specifically said that it is directly because of the atmosphere in the Springbok squad brought about by PdV that he was able to have such a great year in 2009.

So referees and coaches aside why has no one mentioned fatigue as one of the reasons for our current poor form.

Professor Tim Noakes, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, has said time and again that the Springbok players are over played and need a rest. Some will point to the All Blacks and Wallabies and say that they look pretty fresh in comparison.

They say that they play the same amount of games and have the same training as our players, so why are our players the only ones who look ‘run off their feet’?

Prof. Noakes has this to say “First, the Wallabies are contractually required to rest for 63 consecutive days each year. During that period their employers, the Australian Rugby Union, can make no demands on its contracted players. If the Springboks had a similar contract they would certainly have less excuse to be tired.”

He goes on to say “… the New Zealand players especially those from the Pacific Islands, do not train as do South African rugby players. Rather they focus on explosive training of high intensity and short duration with an almost complete absence of endurance running. It is my opinion that for those players this form of training undertaken is less exhausting over the course of the season than is the typical training to which South African rugby players are exposed. Indeed current Springbok conditioning coach, Neels Liebell, is on record as saying that when he finally has control of the Springboks’ training especially on the end-of-the-year tours, he finds that the players are so exhausted that he must focus on rest and recuperation so that they are able to achieve at least some level of performance on the field.”

The Springboks play so much rugby during the Super 14 and then Currie Cup, followed by the end of year tour that they cannot, (not, do not want to) perform at their peak. Victor Matfield played over 1800 minutes last year, as did Pierre Spies. Morne Steyn and John Smit played over 2000 minutes each. These guys are physically and mentally finished.

Then of course there are the injuries caused by over-playing. Bismark Du Plessis played 2422 minutes in 2009, he is out injured. Heinrich Brossouw (knee injury) played 1718 minutes and Fourie Du Preez  played 1835 minutes and is now out due to a shoulder injury.

There is no clear rest period and giving the players a week off at the end of the Super14 season (ala The Bulls) is fine in the short-term but is not the rest these guys need.

One of the reasons for the poor form this year is not solely due to lack of rest but when the top 3 teams in the world are so evenly matched, being able to give that little bit more makes all the difference.

A possible solution is to rest our top 22 or so Springboks and not send them on the mindless end of year tour. The trouble is that when Jake White did this in 2006, he nearly lost his job as a result and had to fly back mid tour to ‘explain’ himself.

If we want to win the World Cup next year, we need to rest our current senior players after this Tr-Nations, or else any hopes of retaining the Web Ellis trophy will be all but destroyed.

Your thoughts?

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~ by bowlphilosophy on July 28, 2010.

One Response to “Too much rugby for the Springboks”

  1. Tactics, 1 dimensional approach to the game with no backup plan. Playing people out of position, playing sub standard players over deserved players. Failing to drop or “rest” certain individuals who are no performing. Not blooding enough youngsters to bolster our squad ( De Jongh had better start the last 3 games – as should Flouw – as should Houghaard as should Pienaar)
    Failing to include Frans Steyn as fullback (at least we’d have a goal kicker when Pienaar is playing scrummie)

    Im sure our forward pack will recover strength (IF they are not used in the currie cup) and hopefully set up a platform for some running attacking rugby with houghaard + Pienaar pulling the strings at 9 and 10). It was humiliating to see our forwards get schooled by the Ozzie schoolboys. 3 games of being 2nd at the breakdown, going missing in support and getting rolled on the few occasions they were at the breakdown. I saw 1 diving maul work in 3 games…

    fresh legs and brains for the forwards. faster incisive back line players for the final 3 games. Time to probe the corners and use the field.

    The coaches and senior players need to be grilled about the game plan, not just PDV.

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