Sooooo…….. Anyone watch the boxing on Saturday night? Anyone wash their car on Saturday afternoon? Walk their dog? Build a shed? Listen to your other half’s problems? Play tig with the busses? Ok, that last one was probably after you watched the rugby…
Black Saturday, as it will forever be known, is over. Forgotten. That’s the good news. The bad news? The world champion Bokke are headed into town as we speak.
They’ve been humiliated in the tri-nations, Peter De Villiers is the rugby equivalent of Boris Johnson and there are rumours that they were collectively drinking themselves into oblivion the week before their Autumn tour (drinking Irn-Bru? – ed.) Yet they have won twice! It hasn’t been pretty, but they’ve seen off Wales and Ireland. The gate to Murrayfield is swinging open…
We have come a long way under Robbo, but Saturday shows us just how far we have still to go.
In drawing with England, toppling Ireland and beating Argentina twice we moved up to 7th in the IRB rankings. However, this could have been seen as a false economy.
We played England at their own game and, in their transitional phase, they almost rolled over under the full brunt of 5 million people. Almost.
Ireland were bullied, and Scotland played the best they have probably played in five years. That is fair enough.
Argentina are an ageing team, some would argue a spent force, and their untested players are, well, untested. We beat them twice and leapfrogged them in the rankings. They’ve just taken 7th spot back, and we’ve dropped to 8, again. To be fair this shouldn’t last for long as we both play the same way (a pivot at 10 who creates pressure with kicking, and forwards who are abrasive in defence and offload in attack) but we are slightly better at it.
We can even work up to 6th during the 6N. Ireland are slipping backwards and the pressure on an also ageing team could hamper the likes of Wallace, O’Connell (if he’s ever fit), O’Driscoll and their bench. Scotland have, possibly, more promise and longevity in their front 5. However, unless things change in our youth policy 6th could be as far as we go.
S.A. are beatable. We’ve done it before, and we can actually take on the big boys at home. In the end, though, kicking won’t do it; we need tries. Teams will always score against the Bokke, and really we have to score more than they do. This means creating space and the backs actually passing when someone else is in the space. Jackson is raw enough to spot this, and arrogant enough to take a gap. What we need is Southwell to maybe listen to men outside him, a designated back-rower behind Evans (if he plays, ‘cos faced with a defence he will only ever offload when caught, he’ll never pass in front of contact) and we should let some prospects play. Give youth a chance to grow.
Get Weir training with the squad, let Jim Thompson come off the bench, keep Vernon in even though the last match passed him by a little, let Laidlaw abuse the pack even if Blair isn’t injured and petition the EU and IRB about Visser’s Visa and allegiances. All of this may not pay dividends against South Africa, Samoa or even in the 6N, but it should help come World Cup time, because we have a greater depth in the squad and more experience going into the future. No one wants a repeat of Black Saturday and I’m not fast enough to keep playing tig with the busses.