Just let them play
There was a telling snapshot about who does the Springboks' thinking during their defeat by the All Blacks at Soccer City on Saturday.
The score was 26-16 to the visitors, with just under a quarter to go in the match, when referee Alain Rolland awarded the Boks a kickable penalty.
Team captain Jean de Villiers and goalkicker Elton Jantjies conspired to take the pot at goal, and then set about scoring the try that would bring the scores level.
But Coach Heyneke Meyer had different ideas, barking into his walkie-talkie that the Boks should go for a touch-finder and attempt a drive from a line-out instead.
Forget the rationale of the opposing views from the field of battle and upstairs - the lasting impression left by the incident was that Bok players aren't allowed to think for themselves.
Meyer's explanation for hogging the decision-making is that from his high vantage point in the coach's booth, he can see things that the captain isn't always privy to.
Fair enough, but surely part of the coaching process is to teach players to solve their own problems, to the point where the captain is in charge on the field?
For some reason South African coaches insist on emasculating their players by telling them what to do all the time - despite the fact that most of the messages reach their charges after the fact.
The result is the kind of panic our teams get into once they fall behind by a mere 10 points - because the players haven't been empowered to think themselves out of a hole.
And the disappointing thing is that it's not as if the likes of Adriaan Strauss, Francois Louw, Ruan Pienaar, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana are card-carrying members of Densa.
But in rugby terms, they're simply not equipped with problem-solving skills because thinking for oneself is not encouraged by structure-crazed coaching in the domestic game.
The irony is that one of the few coaches who does give his players leeway is Griquas' Pote Human.
The former Blue Bulls coach is famous for being overheard uttering the immortal words: "Sê vir daai d**s ons is nie 'n pop-pass span nie" into his walkie-talkie after watching one of his players botch an attempted off-load in the tackle.
Yet Human has been winning matches by giving fullback Willie le Roux a free role within the team to wreak havoc with the opposition.
As a result Le Roux, an outrageously skilful and clever sort, who flits from the last line of defence to first receiver, has been doing what Israel Dagg sometimes does for the All Blacks - winning games from fullback.
In Le Roux's case, the influence has been more pronounced in how he has invariably been at the beginning and at the end of Griquas moves in the Currie Cup, with a certain Rocco Jansen benefiting to the tune of seven tries.
A Paul Roos and Maties product, the key to the 23-year-old's derring-do is a stint with Racing Metro after signing for them as a teenager in 2007.
The upshot is a player who not only doesn't mind having a go, but also has the vision and the skills to pull it off.
Granted, Currie Cup is not exactly Test level, but we can't persist with players who don't seem to know what to do unless a coach sitting in Row Z tells them.
And frankly, if Pote Human could change his tune, Meyer should at least be able to loosen his iron grip on the Boks and let them play what's in front of them.