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DURBAN – In Hamlet, the famous line “the lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is used to this day to describe insincerity in that a person who makes too big a noise about a subject is often camouflaging the fact that they secretly have contrary thoughts.
I reckon if Shakespeare was writing in the 21st century he could have had a pair of Kiwi coaching buddies in mind when he crafted those wise words. I am talking about former and current All Blacks coaches Steve Hansen and Ian Foster. The latter claimed that the series between the Springboks and the Lions put him to sleep and now double-World Cup winner Hansen says the series produced “a game that nobody wants to watch.”
Hansen, in an interview on Kiwi radio station Newstalk ZB, said of the Lions series: “You’ve got two big packs and two coaches who don’t have any faith in what’s going to happen if they throw the ball around, so they just beat each other up… It’s not a game that anybody wants to watch … and it turned a lot of people off.”
What neither Foster nor Hansen is adding is that the Boks’ playing style is why they are No 1 on the World Rugby rankings and the SA Rugby trophy cabinet is groaning with the finest silverware in the game.
And they are also not adding context to the type of rugby that was played in that series. The Springboks could not add nuances to the game that won them the World Cup because, after the final, it was 19 months before they laced up their boots again.
They then had a horror movie preparation for the Lions when they could barely train because half of the squad was isolating in their rooms with Covid, so of course, they were going to play basic, no-frills rugby. They had no other recourse but to stick to what they know and, in any case, they happen to enjoy the way they play. Heck, who doesn’t enjoy winning?
I think behind closed doors the All Blacks know the Boks will be hard to stop in the Rugby Championship, and of course they want the South Africans to deviate from what works wonderfully for them.
But the most balanced view on how the Boks play happens to also come from a Kiwi. Nick Evans played flyhalf 16 times for the All Blacks and latterly has been the attack coach for Harlequins, who recently won the English Premiership.
In essence, Rassie Erasmus cut a suit according to the best cloth available to him in 2018 and Evans wonders why the Boks would want to try on garments that are never going to fit.”
He told Rugby Pass: “I admire the Springboks because they are very successful and because of the way they execute their game plan. There is total buy-in from everyone and they are very well-coached.
“Personally, I don’t want to see all teams playing the same way. Teams pick a style that suits their personnel and is aligned to their identity. Entertainment is one thing but ultimately you are judged on results.”
And that, as Shakespeare also said in Hamlet, is life “bounded in a nutshell”.