The last fortnight has been surreal. My parting gift from 702 was a trip to India. Since reading Passage, Shantaram and Q and A it has been a dream and it has now, finally, come true. My better half was less than enthusiastic on receiving the news of the present, but a deal was struck involving best friends joining us and top hotels only, and so off we went.
We experienced the Delhi smog, marvelled at the Taj Mahal and Red Fort in Agra, saw a tiger in the wild in Rhantambore and looked in wonder at the Amber Fort and Music Palace in Jaipur. Traffic, driving, noise, litter and crowds, both human and animal, will never be complained about again in South Africa and that is all that will be spoken about the trip. You see, nobody’s words, writings or photos do justice to India. It has to be experienced for oneself. She and her people are unique. It is good and bad and ugly rolled into one and surrounded by a spirituality and character that cannot be adequately described. It is organised chaos but somehow it works. You have to feel it for yourself. Go.
The trip meant I missed the Springboks live against Ireland and France. Sport on television in India means five cricket channels, a bit of soccer and the most bizarre sport called Kabaddi which is huge. Google it and be amazed.
The result is that all the rugby has been binge watched on return. Here are some observations.
The rest of the top tier rugby world has not been sitting still. Scotland, in particular, were magnificent against the All Blacks and could easily have won. Fiji ran Ireland close and there was nothing much between England and Australia for most of the game despite the final score. Set pieces, physicality, defence and conditioning are now a given. So what are the key danger areas? Where does success lie?
What struck me most about the Boks is our predictability. We win ball from tight or loose and take it up. Eben Etzebeth is mighty in his efforts but it is so predictable. They are lining up to take him. We simply do not look dangerous with ball in hand unless it is close to the line. Defences are so well organised that deception is almost impossible unless moves are perfected at extreme speed or there is magic in the air. What does that mean?
All sides seem to have a magician or two in their backlines, except us. Think about it. The All Blacks are full of them. Damian McKenzie is electric from anywhere and Sonny Bill is back to his rampaging, off-loading best. However, look at teams we usually beat . Fiji have dangerous runners all over but lack discipline. Australia have Kurtley Beale to provide spark but have also unearthed big men with speed and skill. Wales have backs with unpredictable skills. Even Scotland, against the mighty All Blacks, when they had the ball, looked dangerous. We do not. Why is that? Is it that magicians here are extinct or that we don’t select them?
Remember chaos theory and rugby? John Mitchell explained it. In attack the trick is to create chaos, somehow. It can be a move, a kick or a piece of brilliance. Once created in the opposition, your order can turn it into a try. For example, you run in an overlap that the chaos has created. In defence the trick is to try and avoid chaos but, if it occurs you get back into order pronto. That is the best description of modern rugby I have encountered. Order trumps chaos. So, in an orderly way, create chaos. We simply do not create enough. In a nutshell that is our problem.
In fairness, Andries Coetzee looks like he gets it but seems to battle in opening up defences in his counter attacks. Is Warrick Gelant the man? All we need is a bit of magic and then we will see Leyds and Skosan running them in.
Loyalty is admirable but we must see improvement in our backline or changes must be made. We need danger.
Make like India and create some chaos. Somehow.