29 Aug

Your number is up… (Match Review – SA v NZ)
by Tracey Nelson
29 Aug 2000

If there is one thing that really, REALLY annoys me about the modern game of rugby, it’s what I call Fatties in the Backline. Over the past three or four seasons it’s become endemic in New Zealand rugby, and on Sunday we saw a full display of it from the All Blacks as they totally humiliated themselves by letting in six tries in going down 40-46 against a rampaging Springbok team.

You all know what I mean by fatties in the backline – it’s those no-necked blokes (who are supposed to be getting stuck in to the hard grunt and securing good ball possession) that turn up in the middle of the field, or worse yet out on the wing, and drop the pass from the second five. Or they try to intercept and knock-on the long pass your 1st 5 is trying to get out to his winger.

I’m not going to mince my words. Carl Hoeft would be the laziest prop I’ve ever had the misfortune to see in the black jersey. Kees Meeuws isn’t much better. Anton Oliver I will cut a little slack to, because at least he puts his body on the line, but he’s still part of the front row unit and collectively they suck. Big time.

What was needed to beat the Boks in the weekend was a big effort from our tight five to secure some good possession, and ensure that our backs had clean, fast ball to play with. Instead, we hardly had any ball at all for the first 35 minutes of the game as the Boks rattled up four tries and made our defence look like bone china in an earthquake. Instead of having their heads down and bums up working hard to get the ball, we had two props standing off doing nothing except miss tackles as the Bok backs ran past them with glee.

I think it comes down to mindset, and Hoeft and Meeuws just don’t have it. They don’t have the aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach we’ve long held as synonymous with All Black props. They seem to think it’s not their role to do the hard work, and I actually saw them standing off and letting Mehrtens go in to fight for the ball in a maul at one stage of the game. To me that is the ultimate disgrace for a prop – to let a back do his job for him, particularly one the size of Mehrts.

When your front row isn’t doing the work, that means your locks end up doing it, which in-turn means the loosies end up having to peform as tight forwards too. It wouldn’t be so bad if Hoeft and Meeuws actually made their tackles when standing off, but they don’t. If it hadn’t been so tragic, I would have been laughing at the way Hoeft was slipping off players. Perhaps if he’d been in doing the tight work, the ball wouldn’t have come back so freely to the Boks, and even if it had we would have had a loosie there to make the tackle and stop the movement. But alas, Messrs Hoeft and Meeuws seem to think that it’s OK for them to be swanning about in the backline, admiring the work everyone else it doing.

I know the rest of the team didn’t perform overly well either, but it all stems from what happens up front. No ball = no win. No tackles = lots of tries. I am seriously considering not watching the next All Black game if those woofters from Dunedin are propping again. Certainly there will be a lot of interest in their form over the next few weeks of NPC rugby, and I am really hoping we see some NZ provincial teams show them up for what they are. This has been a serious setback for the All Blacks, and by god I’m going to point the finger!

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