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Boks play Bok rugby

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By Jacques Van Der Westhuizen

WHEN, in the last 20 years, have the Springboks been a side that have consistently ripped opponents apart with dazzling invention and backline play?

Playing spectacular rugby, especially in the northern hemisphere, at the end of every season, is not part of the national team’s makeup.

When did the Boks ever come to Europe and sizzle with ball in hand? It’s just not part of the Bok DNA.

The question though is, should the Boks be playing a different style ... the kind of rugby the All Blacks seemingly produce week in and week out – a brand that excites the fans and produces plenty of tries?

Those who’re critical of the Boks’ approach on their European tour make some valid points, but to say South African rugby hasn’t benefited at all from the last few weeks in Ireland and the UK is just incorrect.

Eben Etzebeth has gained invaluable experience and continues to grow as a Test player, Jannie du Plessis has become one of the best tightheads in the world, Adriaan Strauss has developed into a formidable Test hooker and the Bok loose-trio of Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen must rank as the best 6, 7, 8 combination in world rugby right now.

The Bok pack is not close to the one Heyneke Meyer would have had in his head when he took charge of the team ... but it has developed into a potent unit over the last few Tests and it is feared by all who have come up against it in Europe. England, who the Boks face on Saturday, know they have no chance of winning the Test if they don’t find a way to match the Bok physicality.

It is this, the strength and power and brute force up front, which has been the key characteristic of the Boks for years now. And, generally, it has served them well, with the side regularly occupying a spot inside the top three in the world game.

We may not always like it and we are certainly tired of hearing it ... but the truth is Meyer has had a very difficult year with injuries and time and perhaps he needs to be cut some slack. The Boks are not the All Blacks, they never have been, and they’ve never really played adventurous rugby, so why should we expect it now.

Yes, the back division needs work, plenty of it in fact, and the players could read situations better, but no-one must tell me they’re not excited about what Meyer and his coaching team have achieved with the new-look pack this season. Sure, the quality of rugby hasn’t been the greatest, or most consistent, but the Boks are undefeated on the European tour, with a game to go, and for me, that is all that matters right now.

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