Stick not stung by criticism

Springbok attack coach prefers to point to the team's success

03 September 2021 - 15:08
By Liam Del Carme AND Liam Del Carme
Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has pushed back at criticism of the team's playing style.
Image: Gallo Images/Frikkie Kapp Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has pushed back at criticism of the team's playing style.

As the Springboks' attack coach, complaints about the team's lack of adventure should perhaps sting Mzwandile Stick more than his colleagues.

As the brickbats keep coming though, the sticks and stones mantra is proving rather useful.

“It doesn't bother us. It is what it is,” Stick said with a frown during an online media conference from the team's base on the Australian Gold Coast where they are preparing for next Sunday's clash against the Wallabies.

“I'm still confused about the criticism. I don't understand. People keep criticising how we are playing the game.

“I'm still confused about the criticism.
Mzwandile Stick, Bok attack coach

“If you look at our wings, Makazole Mapimpi is scoring a lot of tries. Cheslin Kolbe is scoring brilliant tries, Lukhanyo Am is playing great rugby, Willie le Roux at the back has been one of the best guys seeing space around the field.”

The point he didn't quite get across was that the Springboks score tries when they have to. They play a finely balanced game in which they find different pressure points which help set up opportunities to score five pointers.

They are skilled at winning matches, not hearts and minds.

“We are scoring more points than the teams we are playing against,” Stick reminded.

“If people have a problem about how we play, unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it.

“We won't change who we are. We will stick to our DNA. We will stick to what we do best.

“We won't be influenced by the white noise out there. We are on the right track winning games.”

We are on the right track winning games.”
Mzwandile Stick, Bok attack coach

On that score the Boks have been performing perhaps better than expected for a team that had only one Test before engaging the British & Irish Lions in a bruising Test series earlier this year.

The reality is the Springboks have lost just one of their last 12 Tests. That includes their last six matches en route to Rugby World Cup glory as well as the series win over the Lions.

They are also still World Rugby's top ranked team. It is windy at the top of the tree but Stick had another way of getting the message across.

“People will always talk about us whether it is positive or negative. Unfortunately it is the nature of the position in which we are. It goes back to a saying I believe in: 'A dog doesn't bark at the car that is standing still'. A dog only barks at a car that is moving. When you are doing the right things and are achieving in life. In the past, when the Springboks perhaps weren't winning games, people weren't paying that much attention. People didn't care at that time about what we do and how we play. Now we are winning and people are talking and we have made peace with it,” he said.

Having negotiated the challenge presented by the Lions and Los Pumas, the Boks will be facing a far different challenge first against the Wallabies, and then their arch foes the All Blacks in the coming weeks.

Though they did not play any Test rugby last season, Stick is comfortable with the fact that the team is getting better with each game. They are on a good run but their performances in the Rugby Championship, especially their confrontations with the All Blacks, will bring clearer perspective of where their game is at.

“Every game we play now we want to make sure we are getting better. We want to play our best possible rugby and that is exactly what is going to be required against Australia,” Stick predicted.