No rugby supporter likes to be confused. Or lied to. After Saturday’s result against the Irish the average supporter has to be deeply confused. And somewhat angry. After all, we beat the All Blacks, and Australia and we have been reassured by Heyneke himself that everything is in order and all is under control. In fact in an article published the week before the test, Heyneke was quoted as saying “Back home, people see me as this dull, Afrikaans, stupid, conservative guy!” and later insisted that it was not the case. After Saturday’s result, the timing of this statement can only be considered career limiting. Never mind the fact that the game plan demonstrated also contradicted his statement.
So is Heyneke delusional or arrogant? I sincerely hope that he is the latter. Arrogance can easily be cured by a healthy dose of humble pie. In fact the common thought out there is that Saturday’s dose was enough to last a whole season. Maybe all the way to the World Cup. Unfortunately I am not so convinced. I believe that he showing the classic signs of delusion. Delusion is simply the state one finds oneself in once you start believing your own propaganda at the expense of common sense.
I have mentioned before Heyneke’s obsession with trust. This obsession has lead him to insisting on having players who he either has past relationship with or are culturally similar to him. This includes players who have proven records of achievement. Heyneke places blind faith in his players (almost at a spiritual level) and when they fail, he struggles to forgive. It is personal for him. Please ignore the fact that all they have ever done is execute his game plan. The government has put a holt to some of these games by insisting that he meet a minimum quota of black players. But this has made the situation worse simply because he does not trust these players and they know it. Trust is essential to any team; especially under pressure. Against the Irish there were 15 individuals on the field. And the result showed. Embarrassingly so.
This Saturday could get even messier. Heyneke has made no less than 5 changes with Lambie been thrust back into the limelight. Gone are the “affirmative” selections and as well as anyone who has not held their end of the bargain. The only reason that Lambie is probably getting a look in is because he saved the Springboks from an embarrassing defeat to Australia. Maybe he can now be trusted? The fact that Lambie hardly cares (which is why he is so good) is not the point. Don’t get me wrong, the changes are apparently warranted given the performances that have been on display. But has anyone stopped to ask why these experienced, otherwise consistent performers are not playing well? It is an interesting point to note that these poor performers are all strong personalties. Is there a possible correlation between these strong personalities and how they feel about their coach and the tactical decisions that are being made? I think Heyneke is rapidly running out of payers he can trust (and visa versa).
After the game on Saturday there was a heated discussion in the Studio between Nick Mallett and Ashwin Willemse where Ashwin had a go at Heyneke’s tactics. Nick blindly defended Heyeneke suggestion what happened was the player’s fault. Let’s just say that the stronger personality won that discussion. Keep in mind that Heyneke was Mallett’s assistant coach many years ago. And let us also not forget how that ended. This interaction is telling. Heyneke appears untouchable on TV, an unusual state for a South African coach. This can only add to his delusion. No coach can ever be good enough to escape comment. And even if they are, it would not be healthy.
So here is the really bad news. The team will be playing on Saturday in a state of fear. Lose Saturday and suddenly there are problems of monumental proportions. That reality is inescapable. Creativity is impossible in a state of fear and they will need every trick in the book to play against a very confident England whose home crowd have proven the power of their influence. Of course the players may decide, off the record, to take the game and decide to play it their way. Its been done before. Ask Pieter de Villiers. And Victor Matfield. The ties of loyalty and trust will tell. Either way, as I have said before. The Springboks are in trouble.