Ex-coach puts boot into South Africa rugby

BORED BY SA: Ex-Springboks coach believes South Africa on a hiding to nothing if they don't reinvigorate their attacking game.
BORED BY SA: Ex-Springboks coach believes South Africa on a hiding to nothing if they don't reinvigorate their attacking game.

A week after Carlos Spencer criticised South Africa's rugby style, former Springboks coach Nick Mallett has also put the boot in.

Former All Black Spencer, who was about to coach the Eastern Province Kings in the Currie Cup, last week lamented South Africa's rugby conservatism and inability to allow players to "express themselves".

Mallett, who oversaw a strong era of Springboks play that included 17 consecutive test wins in 1997-8, which Steve Hansen's All Blacks were now threatening to break, joined the chorus in the wake of the Sharks' sorry exit from the Super Rugby playoffs.

The Sharks have been criticised for their one-dimensional play that was finally exposed by the Crusaders last weekend.

Mallett feared that approach was more widespread than just the Durban Super Rugby franchise and said "a varied attacking game" was essential to success.

"The one thing that we in South Africa haven't got at the moment is a team that plays with a varied attacking game. Our attacking game is based on driving mauls, pick-and-go's and forwards off nine," he told SuperSport in South Africa as he analysed the Super Rugby season.

"The New Zealanders and the Australians use pick-and-go's, driving mauls, play off nine, play off 10 and they have the wide patterns to the wingers.

''They have the abilities to use all five of those attacking strategies to put the opposition under pressure. And the more varied your attacking strategy is, the harder it is to defend against.

"Perhaps this is just an orange light for South African rugby going into the Rugby Championship," he added in hope as the Boks prepared to tackle the All Blacks and Wallabies.

Mallett suggested Jake White's "unattractive" coaching tactics with the Sharks had been tolerated because of their relative success, but ultimately they would "drive supporters away".

"The Sharks' game plan can only be excused if they win every game they play because they don't play attractive rugby. It's pressure rugby, kicking rugby, too much playing without the ball," Mallett said.

"They do their best to put the opposition under pressure and then play off their mistakes, as opposed to hold onto the ball yourself and force the opposition into mistakes that way.

"Their kicking is often from first phase which is very easy for the opposition to read.

''The Crusaders kick from fourth or fifth phase when there is space at the back after they've brought up the opposition wingers. They isolate the ball carrier and make it into a contestable kick or they hit grass.

"Without the win, this is a flawed game plan. It's not attractive, not successful and ultimately is going to drive supporters away."

Mallett's latest rant wasn't unprecedented. He was similarly critical on South African TV in April when running the rule over a couple of dour derbies in Super Rugby.

He claimed the "ball skills in South Africa need a tremendous amount of work," and said "it's no surprise that [coach] Heyneke Meyer decides to play a very limited game plan with the Springboks".

The Sharks were the only South African side to make the six-team playoff this year, qualifying third.

They needed two late penalties to beat the Highlanders in a Durban quarterfinal, before losing their semifinal in Christchurch.

The Crusaders were now preparing to meet the Waratahs in the final in Sydney on Saturday night.