Planet Rugby

State of the Nation: South Africa

04th December 2013 14:26

Share:

SKY_MOBILE Willie Le Roux

Attacking spark: Willie Le Roux

As we do at the end of every year, we look at the state of affairs in each of the world's leading nations. Next up, South Africa!

Heyneke Meyer's plan seems to be coming together nicely. Second place in the Rugby Championship, second place in the world rankings and the second most tries scored this year (amongst Tier One nations). Just two loses in twelve games this year.

Not bad at all.

But the key word in all those accomplishments is 'second'. The Springboks want to be number one. 2013 has shown us that the Boks under Meyer's command, playing the way they are, will beat anyone...except the All Blacks.

And that, friends, is the dilemma facing the Springboks and their fans at the moment.

No one can deny the progress made in the last twelve months with regards to tactics and the depth of player resources. The Boks are scoring more tries than ever before and almost every position - bar tighthead prop and outside centre - has at least two outstanding players in line.

In terms of pure grunt, no one can match the Bok pack in full rampage mode and the back row has been particularly impressive. Meyer's favourite soundbite (you can hear at every press conference) has been about players "putting their body on the line for their country" and his men have delivered time and again.

But will pure muscle and solid defence win the World Cup? The All Blacks have shown that no amount of power can beat skill and intelligence.

South Africa have just under two years to close the gap. They won't change their spots overnight and the territorial pressure game will remain the hallmark of their approach, but the addition of the likes of Willie le Roux has brought a new dimension to their attacking prowess.

While 2012 was marked by widespread criticism of their predictable gameplan, the decision-making and ability to attack from broken field has improved in leaps and bounds - as illustrated by the 60-point thrashing of Argentina in Soweto and the historical win over the Wallabies in Brisbane.

There are two potential trouble areas, however, and both concern the set-piece, once considered the Boks' bread and butter. While the scrum is significantly more solid, the limited options in the prop department and the lack of a true line-out leader are concerns.

Likewise the rustiness of the Japanese-based contingent is not ideal. Even if Fourie du Preez was very good for the most part (when available), Jaque Fourie was not his old self and JP Pietersen was solid rather than spectacular.

None of the Northern Hemisphere opposition were able to exploit those chinks in November - no thanks to sub-standard surfaces - as Wales failed to recover from a early blitz, Scotland were simply steamrollered and France, in their worst year in decades, where unable to unlock that formidable defence. It's a shame the Boks didn't play England.

As Meyer starts to plan for 2014, the green and gold machine seems to be on the right track, but can it pick up the pace fast enough to catch their old rivals?

By Ross Hastie

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Heineken Cup
Saturday , April 26
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne15:40
Sunday , April 27
Toulon vs Munster15:30
More Heineken Cup fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 26
Glasgow vs Edinburgh19:05
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , April 25
Northampton vs Harlequins20:00
Sunday , April 27
Wasps vs Bath13:00
More Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 25
Blues vs Waratahs17:35
Brumbies vs Chiefs17:40
Sharks vs Highlanders19:10
Saturday , April 26
Hurricanes vs Reds19:35
Western Force vs Bulls17:40
Cheetahs vs Stormers17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 20
Northampton 36 - 21 London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Report
Newcastle 18 - 23 SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 10 - 20 Ospreys
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , April 19
Bath 32 - 20 WorcesterBath vs Worcester Report
Exeter 12 - 55 SaleExeter vs Sale Report
Wasps 38 - 30 GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 26 - 13 EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Report
Connacht 23 - 32 MunsterConnacht vs Munster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Oyonnax 19 - 19 ToulouseOyonnax vs Toulouse Report
Perpignan 31 - 46 ToulonPerpignan vs Toulon Report
Biarritz 19 - 13 Brive
Grenoble 21 - 21 Bayonne
Stade Francais 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Racing Metro Paris 22 - 6 Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 17 - 18 CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Report
Sharks 19 - 8 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Stormers 18 - 3 LionsStormers vs Lions Report
Waratahs 19 - 12 BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins 24 - 20 LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
Glasgow 27 - 9 UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Castres 22 - 15 MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens2080
2Northampton2071
3Bath2064
4Leicester Tigers2064
5Harlequins2058