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Neil de Kock: Canan Moodie will aim to emulate Cheslin Kolbe within Springboks system

By Neil de Kock
(Photo by Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images)

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Owing to the Springboks having suffered two defeats on the bounce and three straight losses against the Wallabies, winning now does become more imperative than building.

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Internally, the Boks will still have a belief in their system and the way they have planned the next 12 to 18 months but winning games is a big part of that puzzle. It’s all well and good giving players game time but confidence is equally as important as building depth.

A head coach is judged on his win percentage – Jacques Nienaber is at 57 per cent – and not anything else. He’s not judged on performance and the players he’s bringing through. Is Nienaber still the answer for the Springbok coaching job? I’m sure every single player in that squad will say he is the right man for the job along with Rassie Erasmus at his side.

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We have invested in Jacques and he is the right man for now but in six months’ time, we might be having a different discussion. In New Zealand, they are having the same debate around Ian Foster and asking: Is he the right man to take the All Blacks forward? After last weekend’s defeat to Argentina, definitely not, but if he comes back and thrashes the Pumas this weekend then maybe he is. As such, it all comes down to that one thing called winning, which is quite harsh for a coach but it’s a reality of the job.

Nienaber has said that the Springboks are blocking out all external pressure and will just keep it internal. I don’t know if the Boks literally locked themselves away ahead of the second Test against the Wallabies but it was a missive from Jacques to the team to have a good, hard look at themselves and each other and decide how the hell we are going to turn this around in seven days. It’s about taking away all the distractions and drowning out the noise from the media and public. Jacques’s message to the team this week would have been: “The only thing we can do is focus on ourselves and sort it out”.

When playing in Australia, it’s like a spell has been cast on South Africa. The Wallabies find ways to get ahead and we’ve got to combat that. The Springboks need to be sharper, more accurate and even more physical and not allow it to impact on the game.

As far as the Nic White incident, it was pretty poor from my viewpoint. I don’t think there’s a place for play-acting in the game. To fake injury almost football-style is nothing I’d like to endorse in the game of rugby because if something like that starts happening then it’s going to spread like wildfire.

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I would have liked to have seen a penalty go the other way – Nigel Owens would have been a brilliant referee for that moment. I think sanity needed to prevail in terms of the yellow card for Faf de Klerk. It was ludicrous that he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin but referees need to be given more licence to use their discretion on the field and say: “The letter of the law says one thing but I’m going to do something different here.” And then the match officials also have to face the music should they get it wrong. The De Klerk decision was absolutely wrong in my mind and poor for the game of rugby. I think it will be nipped in the bud quite quickly because there are too many traditionalists out there who don’t want to see the game go that way.

Jacques mentioned he wants Damian Willemse, who slots in at 10 for the injured Handre Pollard, to show his circus act. It’s an interesting comment and seeing will be believing because I’ve played in teams where there is a certain structure that you are trying to impose. It will be instructive to see if Willemse has been given real licence to do what he wants. That said, it will be about picking and choosing when the best time to do that is and I doubt we will see the Boks playing with ball-in-hand from their own 22. If the Boks can get into the right areas then by all means I’d love to see Damian throw the ball around a bit. But the Boks’ first inclination is to kick rather than pass or run and it’s difficult to change habits. It has produced favourable results in playing that way for quite some time but the problem is that when you don’t do it effectively, as evidenced in Adelaide, it unravels quite quickly, looks a little bit ugly and people swiftly lose patience.

In terms of 19-year-old Canan Moodie, who will debut on the right wing, it will be a case of fitting into a certain structure and way the Boks play. The Boks don’t employ the most expansive style and Moodie will look to emulate parts of Cheslin Kolbe’s game. There are ways and means Kolbe gets his hands on the ball. He gets himself in the right place at the right time and profits from poor kick returns, by winning aerial battles and feasting off scraps. What has made Kolbe so effective at Test level is that he takes those opportunities when they arise and I’m sure Moodie will do exactly the same in Sydney.

Following an 11-year career with Saracens, which saw him earn 264 caps, Neil de Kock now works in the rugby division at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport. De Kock, who featured in 10 Test matches for the Springboks, provides RugbyPass with expert insight and opinion focusing on South Africa.

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