World rugby hits new lows

22 November 2012 - 02:46 By Simnikiwe Xabanisa
Simnikiwe Xabanisa
Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Jean de Villiers framed the issues nicely by asking: "Since when is a win not good enough?"

Heyneke Meyer hammered the point home by saying something along the lines of: "Now that's how you win a World Cup."

The Springbok captain and his coach were referring to their putting "mighty" Scotland in their place at the weekend, a result which didn't quite meet with the enthusiasm they expected from their compatriots.

At some level, De Villiers was right. Of all the rugby fans in the world, none subscribe to the theory that a win is a win is a win more than South Africans do.

The reason for that is simple: the Boks play the kind of ugly rugby which renders a Test match an 80-minute mugging.

In the past we haven't minded putting up with it because our persistence has often been rewarded with a rare match in which our national side play the game the way it was intended. Sadly, there will be no such luck this year as we might have already had our ration in the 31-8 thrashing of a patchwork Australia in September.

Meyer was also right in praising the Boks' defence in the closing stages of the game against the Scots at Murrayfield.

But you have to worry when the Boks talk up scraping past a bad Scotland side as meaning they have what it takes to win a World Cup.

Before this starts sounding like a typical Bok-bashing session, it isn't.

The side have been weakened by the intellectual capital they have lost, injuries suffered, and the sheer length of this year's rugby season.

In a way the Boks are victims of their own environment because international rugby this year has been the worst I have seen.

With the exception of the All Blacks, teams have been exceptionally bad this year.

When they finally scored their breakaway try against England last week, the Aussies had gone something like three hours without scoring.

Wales are sitting on a five-game losing streak, Ireland were on a similar wicket before beating lowly Fiji, and the French are in the throes of impressing a new coach.

And the All Blacks haven't been that great either, bearing in mind that the opposition sides have been atrocious.

When the All Blacks feel they have a proper challenge to face, they usually whip out their other Haka, Kapa O Pango.

They have rarely had to use it this year, and sometimes they gave the impression they were having more trouble choosing a Haka than they were with their opponents.

There are two reasons for the malaise afflicting international rugby: the long season and over-coaching.

Punch-drunk rugby is what you get when your administrators keep promising broadcasters more money by simply adding more games.

The coaches have also become control freaks this season, with Meyer the poster boy for this behaviour, thanks to the unforgettable images of him constantly screaming into his walkie-talkie.

A great example of that is watching Pat Lambie, who instinctively knows what to do on the field, but looks visibly conflicted between what he would do and what he has been told to do.

There is also an obsession with massive backline players who have the creativity of a blunt object.

A great example of that is the Welsh backline, which has an average height and weight of 1.89m and 100kg.

Rugby used to be where we took refuge from our boring jobs.

Watching it has become a grudge purchase now, a national chore where beer has become an important ally in attempts to drink the game prettier.