Why the Springboks’ approach continues to outshine offload rugby

In rugby, there’s an ongoing debate between playing a fast, offload-heavy game and a more strategic, physical approach. This conversation came to life in a recent discussion between South African lock Eben Etzebeth and former Scotland international Jim Hamilton.

The two provided a deep dive into what it takes to win at the highest level, and why the Springboks’ approach has proven so effective.

Springboks Winning Formula

The Springboks’ success, including their back-to-back World Cup victories, can be attributed to their emphasis on physicality and strategic play. Etzebeth and Hamilton reminisced about the 2019 World Cup, particularly the gruelling semi-final against Wales.

Etzebeth highlighted the importance of having a strong set piece, a solid kicking game, and unwavering defensive capabilities. These elements, he argued, are non-negotiable for winning knockout matches.

Hamilton echoed this sentiment, noting that teams like Scotland and England have struggled to adapt to the Springboks’ relentless pressure.

He emphasised that while offload rugby might be entertaining, it’s the structured, collision-based game that wins championships.

The Mental Edge

Confidence is crucial, but as Etzebeth pointed out, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. He recounted moments when opponents underestimated the Springboks, particularly referencing teams overlooking the All Blacks in key matches.

This overconfidence, he suggested, often leads to underestimating the discipline and preparation required to face formidable opponents like New Zealand and South Africa.

Hamilton supported this view, stressing that playing against the Springboks forces teams to elevate their game. The pressure the Springboks apply through their physical play and strategic kicking can dismantle even the most talented teams. It’s a game of attrition, where patience and adherence to the game plan are paramount.

Building for the Future of the Springboks

Looking ahead, Etzebeth expressed optimism about the Springboks’ future, particularly with Rassie Erasmus at the helm.

The introduction of new coaching staff brings fresh ideas, but the core principles of physicality and strategic play will remain intact. This continuity is essential for maintaining their competitive edge.

With the 2027 World Cup on the horizon, the Springboks are not just resting on their laurels. They aim to continue their dominance by integrating new strategies while preserving the foundational elements that have brought them success.

As Etzebeth pointed out, consistency between World Cups and achieving victories in interim championships are crucial for building momentum.

Conclusion

The discussion between Etzebeth and Hamilton underscores a critical lesson in rugby: while flair and speed have their place, it’s the gritty, strategic play that often wins the day.

The Springboks exemplify this approach, proving that in the toughest matches, it’s the team that can endure and adapt that ultimately triumphs.

As rugby evolves, the Springbok way remains a blueprint for success, reminding us that in the world of rugby, sometimes slower and steadier does indeed win the race.