The winters day matches versus Paul Roos are always an extremely tough environment for our players to test themselves, and can expose the true nature of individuals and teams. Playing against the best will always be the true measure of how successful and well prepared you as an individual and as a team are.
As usual SACS teams were horribly exposed in physicality, determination and belief. It astounds me that we as a school capitulate so easily under pressure, when we play the ‘Afrikaner’ schools, whereas when we play our southern suburb neighbors, we have this determined belief that they will not cross our line under any circumstances. This Saturday was no exception, with many teams being tested to the point where some even gave up long before the final whistle sounded.
Now without trying to see the u15A loss with rose colored glasses on, I truly believe they were not beaten because they gave up, or were intimidated by Paul Roos, they were merely outclassed at certain times during the game. They did not give up and were not intimidated by their bigger boys.
This team does not get intimidated by anyone anymore.
Individual errors out wide caused tries when there shouldn’t have been, and unfortunately this has been the teams weakness so far, and it has to stop. No longer can they accept losing because of tries out wide, when the fringes and the back are being covered expertly. It’s time for the boys ,as a team, to step up a gear in this respect because once we have done this…. this team can go anywhere. They need to back each other up by having each individual try his BEST to correct the errors that are holding the team back, because by not correcting them, they are not a team, they are a bunch of individuals playing this game with no direction or purpose. They can fix these weaknesses but how much do they want to? How much do they need to?
With such an amazing pack of forwards, it is no co-incidence that this team has improved their performance against Paul Roos by 50% in one year. They were outstanding in defending the fringes and attacked using the structure extremely well. The scrums were phenomenal at times, and at other times they were ordinary. The lineouts were much better, with the lineout captain Justin Joubert finally taking responsibility and showing his true potential. The scary thing he, like everyone in the pack can do so much better. This must be a huge concern of the teams we will be playing, because they aint seen anything yet!
This pack cannot be ashamed of their performance as they physically took on Paul Roos’s forwards and stopped them going forward every time. The only downside is that they over committed at the breakdown and did not shift wide enough to back up the backline on defence, although they did much better than in previous matches.
On attack they went forward every time, with our main ball carriers Joel and Brandon doing exemplary work. Obviously they could not have done it without the help of their ‘blackjackers’ who always ensured they were protected. The awesome thing about this pack is that they are such a tight unit they NEVER let their fellow forward members be isolated, or let him fight any battle alone, they are turning into one hell of a pack and I’m stoked to see how much more they can do before we hit Wynberg… because by then I want them to have come out on top against Paarl Gym and Boland Landbou, two schools that pride themselves on their forward play… pride that will be taken from them soon!
With regards to the backline we have a lot of work to do, but all is not hopeless. We have outstanding raw talent, but it needs to be nurtured. Until they have shown their aptitude for defence they cannot progress their attacking skills, as it is pointless in my view to have an outstanding attack, without a solid defence. In our team we cannot afford to let tries leak through, as the team need to see progress with very low score lines to ensure that the journey carries on an upward curve.
What disappoints me more than it annoys me, is that we knew EXACTLY what Paul Roos were going to do on attack, and prepared for that the whole week. We spent 3 hours on defence just so that we would be able to keep the score line low and keep in touch with penalties or tries we scored through the structure. However even with the practice, the wide defence still broke down. Individuals cannot be blamed as the system failed closer in to the breakdown, but I did expect to see a greater improvement. Letting 6 tries through out wide is unacceptable and we as a team and coaching staff need to accept this and start working harder on this area. Although the boys did improve and stopped about 5 tries, which would have been scored last week, more needs to be done and we need to accept that. The team cannot progress until this is sorted. Once we have a water tight defence, this team will be VERY hard to beat… especially with the team spirit of never giving up and always playing as a team.
What impresses me more and more every week is how well this team works together, even when the chips were down at 34 – 0 with 12 mins to go, no one was fighting with each other or blaming someone else for their mistake. It seems to me that this team is in such a good head space at the moment with regards to never giving up, or in fighting. They try hard every match to improve and get to the results they know they can get. Other lesser teams would have given up long ago and the score line would have been at the 60 – 70 mark. But not with this team, they fought to the end and did not let another try in for 12 minutes. They held onto that ball and produced their best attack to date against a much better team than we have encountered so far, which just shows where they can get to if they just believe in themselves a bit more and back themselves to get the results they want so desperately.
By no means were they completely outplayed, with Paul Roos doubting themselves on a few occasions, but more importantly our boys doubted themselves more. Any amount of doubt limits the bodies ability to perform at it’s best, and this is what happened to us far too many times. The boys must understand and realise that they are NOT inferior to any team we have played and are about to play, as they have an amazing scrum, an amazing pack of forwards, a fast and big backline with plenty natural skill and physicality. But until they start to believe it, the team will always be the underdogs and will never get to that season they all dream about and want.
So I think we as coaches, parents and players can take more positives out of the match than negatives, although losing by 34 points is completely unacceptable for this team, they did play their best rugby to date. Lots of work lies ahead as usual, but hard work I know the team are ready for, and more importantly really want to do.
Many people will say that a tough and very difficult two matches lie ahead, but that is ignorant to think, because the most difficult challenge that lies ahead for the team, is for them to play and reach their true potential. It NEVER matters who we play and who tests us week in and week out, because we should always be playing and testing ourselves. The best teams always try to improve week in and week out, opponents are just there to provide opposition so that the team can get better and prove to themselves how good they can be.
So bring on the last three matches, and lets see how good the team can get, because what we have seen is not their best by far!
Time to up the standards and really start to believe yourselves and the team as a whole.