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Springboks dismiss their style critics with a 'dog peeing' proverb

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

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Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has rebuked the ongoing criticism of South Africa’s style of play, claiming he is confused by it but admitting there is nothing he can do to change people’s minds. Jacques Nienaber’s squad is currently on the Gold Coast in Australia preparing to play their first away matches since their November 2019 World Cup final win over England in Japan.  


The Springboks have arrived for their remaining four Rugby Championship matches against the Wallabies and the All Blacks amid an avalanche of disapproval surrounding their style of play in their recent Test series win over the British and Irish Lions followed by their back-to-back wins over Argentina. 

Even ex-All Blacks coach Steve Hansen joined the ongoing denunciation, claiming last weekend about the Springboks versus Lions series: “It’s not a game that anybody wants to watch… it turned a lot of people off.”

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Springboks forward Duane Vermeulen on the injury that kept him out of the Lions series
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Springboks forward Duane Vermeulen on the injury that kept him out of the Lions series

The criticism of the Springboks’ style was initially led by a chorus of critics from Britain and Ireland over the course of the series versus the Lions, but it now looks set to continue in the coming weeks in Australia and New Zealand if the damning remarks from Hansen are anything to go by. 

Backs coach Stick has since attempted to dismiss this outside noise as irrelevant, that the negativity is merely part and parcel of the Springboks becoming a winning team that is envied by its rivals. 

Asked by RugbyPass at the latest virtually held Springboks media conference if this continuing criticism was a distraction from their mission to go on and clinch Rugby Championship title success, Stick replied: “We are not going to lose focus on what we want to achieve as a team. We know our strengths, we know our DNA, we know what works for us – so we are not going to try to listen too much to other voices out there as long as we keep on winning as a team, as long as we keep on getting better in the things we want to achieve as a team. 


“It’s something we need to make peace with – we are the No1 team in the world currently, we are world champions currently so people always talk about us. Even if it is positive or negative – unfortunately, it is the nature of the position where we are. There is also a saying I believe in, a dog doesn’t bark at the car that is standing still. He just pees on it. 

“A dog only barks at the car that is moving, so people always have a view. The Springboks in the past probably weren’t winning games and people didn’t really pay that much attention to us, to what we did and how we played at that time, but now we are winning so you have to expect that people will always talk about you. It’s something we have made peace with and it doesn’t bother us. It is what it is.”

Stick, though, revisited the hot topic later in the media briefing when asked a follow-up question by a fellow South African and he responded by outlining his confusion over why the Springboks attack wasn’t getting kudos and was instead being constantly criticised. “I’m still confused by the criticism, I don’t understand it, that people keep on criticising the game,” he said about a team that has won five of its six Test matches since it resumed playing in July following a 20-month layoff due to the pandemic. 

The Springboks have outscored their opposition by an aggregate of 164 points to 78, registering 15 tries to a meagre opposition tally of three. Even when their 40-9, six-try win over Georgia is excluded, the numbers still look healthy – 124 points and ten tries for the South Africans against 69 points and three tries for the Lions and Argentina combined.   


“If you look at our wings, Makazole Mapimpi is scoring a lot, 16 tries out of 18 games. Cheslin Kolbe is scoring brilliant tries (nine in 18 matches). Lukhanyo Am has been playing great rugby. Willie le Roux at the back has been one of the best guys to use space around the field. We are scoring more points than the teams we are playing against and we are winning games. 

“When people are talking about the style of play and they have got a problem with how we are playing, there is nothing you can do about it unfortunately but we are not going to change who we are. We are always going to stick to our DNA, we are always going to stick to what we do best. We are not really going to be influenced by the noise out there that wants to see us play a different style of play. 

“We are currently on the right track, winning games. It was a tough series against the British and Irish Lions, it was very physical. There were a lot of battles under the high balls, there was a lot of physicality in the set-pieces. We have done everything in our power to make sure we won those Test matches, so I don’t think we are going to change much. 

“We are not going to listen to people telling us how we must play. They must just focus on whatever they are involved in, try and play that touch or champagne rugby. We are just going to focus on what we do best and keep on improving it.”  


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