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Nick Mallett applauds the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup final win, but he hasn’t been as complimentary about the standard of play in South Africa’s domestic competitions.
Former Springboks coach Nick Mallett says the standard of South Africa’s domestic rugby competitions hasn’t matched up to the benchmark set by Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Seven South African teams are currently playing in the Currie Cup premier division, but Mallett has lamented the lack of attacking rugby and an over-reliance on set pieces and mauling play.
The Currie Cup tournament followed a Super Rugby Unlocked series featuring the same sides before Christmas.
Mallett and former Springboks attack coach Swys de Bruin expressed disappointment with the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup sides’ performances during an interview on SuperSport’s Final Whistle programme.
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“It’s difficult not to be a little bit negative on the performances of our teams quite frankly,’ Mallett said. “If you compare it with the way New Zealand cracked in with their Aotearoa competition, with teams really embracing the quick-ruck ball and ball in hand [style] they were reasonably high-scoring games, but the defences were excellent and their attacks were great. It was rugby that was worth watching.”
Mallett, a former Springboks loose forward who coached South Africa from 1997 to 2000, said when the Currie Cup started “there were obviously issues with our fitness and conditioning” and “a lot of error-ridden games early on”.
“Then it appeared that every single team that got into a tight situation just resorted to World Cup-final tactics which basically means driving mauls, pushing scrums for penalties and kicking an up-and-under from No 9 or 10 the entire game.”
“If you’re waiting for other people to make a mistake … it’s like watching us playing Wales in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup which was not a good spectacle, it was great that South Africa won, but it wasn’t a good rugby spectacle for viewers.”
Mallett said rugby was “in the entertainment business” and the public deserved attacking play.
“People get entertained by watching tries being scored through good passing, good lines of running, timing and good stepping.”
De Bruin, a former Lions Super Rugby head coach, was frustrated that the tactics of Currie Cup teams was leading to slower games.
“In Super Rugby, in 2017 and 2018 we had 35 minutes of continuing play on average. We aimed for 40, if we got 35 or 36 we were happy. I spoke to one of the analysts and in the Currie Cup they’re hitting 24, 25, 26 [minutes]. So, out of 80 minutes, you see 25 minutes of rugby and that’s a problem.”
The Currie Cup competition includes the Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Western Province – all former Super Rugby franchise base unions – plus the Cheetahs, a former Super Rugby outfit which was playing in Europe’s PRO14 competition until the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The seven teams played a just-concluded round robin, topped by the Bulls, the Super Rugby Unlocked champions who will meet the fourth-placed Lions in a semifinal on January 23. Western Province will host the Sharks in the other playoff.