Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains is 75 years-old and his ramblings earlier this week about the Springboks sound like that of an old man who has lost his mind, writes Mark Keohane. How embarrassing for those insightful and knowledgeable New Zealand rugby people.
Mains coached the 1995 World Cup All Blacks. They were the greatest team not to win the World Cup. The Springboks beat them 15-12 after 100 minutes and Mains claimed his team all suffered food poisoning.
Ironically, Mains would spend five years coaching the Lions and Cats from Ellis Park, where his World Cup All Blacks were buried.
Mains has been back in New Zealand for more than a decade but his utterances this week of the World Cup-winning Springboks does his rugby pedigree a disservice. I can only surmise it isn’t all there upstairs anymore.
Just what inspired the Kiwi media to call on ‘Funeral Face’ Laurie, who knows. Covid lockdown does strange things.
Mains, clearly hasn’t watched a lot of the Springboks, and from what he has said his only viewing of the Boks must have been the second fourty minutes of the second Test against the Wallabies.
The Boks tried to play Australian-type rugby and the Wallabies, with very little ball, a lot of kicking and great defence, stuffed the Boks in the second half.
Mains declared this Bok team the worst of the worst and stated the Boks had hit rock bottom.
He singled out the two wingers and outside centre as not being good enough to play Test rugby, front rowers who aren’t up to scratch and the apparent chaos in the Bok selections because they picked a lock to start at blindside flank.
Mains didn’t mention the players by name because he didn’t know their names.
‘I think there’s four or five players in that team that simply are not up to test level, and I think you’ll see that the All Blacks’ three-quarters will run riot against them,” Mains told Stuff . ‘The centre and the two wings look simply just not good enough to be playing at that level. For me looking on, I say to myself, look at the wings and look at their centre, they’re not very good players. I guess the players themselves don’t want to take the risk by giving them too much ball. They’re loose with their carries and don’t cause any danger to the opposition.
‘They won’t be able to lift it enough to give the All Blacks a go. I can’t see South Africa getting close to them with that team. I just come back to what I said. They just don’t have the cattle at the moment, the world class players there to actually do a lot about it. I mean, in rugby today with the high skill levels and variation of tactics, and everything that goes with it, it is extremely hard for a team that is lacking in ability to compete with a team that’s got a lot of ability.
‘This is not the same team that won the World Cup. Let’s be very clear on that. They’ve lost a number of their players who have headed off overseas playing or retired. They’re nowhere near the team they were when they played in the World Cup two years ago and Duane Vermeulen is past his best.
‘They haven’t got the forward pack that is capable of nullifying the All Blacks pack, slowing them down, stop their ball carriers from carrying and setting up good front-foot ball for their backs. They just don’t have the players there to do that. this team for me is pretty much at rock bottom for South African rugby.’
So the two wings Mains refers to are Makazole Mapimpi, who scored 16 tries in his first 18 Tests, and scored the first ever try for the Springboks in a World Cup final. The other wing is Sbu Nkosi, who played in the World Cup semi-final win against Wales and has scored some fabulous tries in Test rugby. The centre is Lukhanyo Am, who was among South Africa’s standouts in a triumphant World Cup and one of the most impressive performers in the three-Test series win against the Lions.
Vermeulen, who Mains says is past it, was playing his first matches in three months after tearing ligaments in his ankle and having an operation.
The frontrowers Mains talks about were all at the heart of the Springboks World Cup final pounding of England and a series win against Lions less than two months ago.
The only player in the 2019 World Cup final starting XV who retired was prop Tendai Mtawarira and all overseas-based players are eligible for Bok selection and all those overseas-based World Cup-winning Boks are in Australia.
🇿🇦 Boks boosted by experience for big @AllBlacks Test
5️⃣0️⃣th Test cap for @NtandoTrevor
🗣️ "Strong defence and accurate execution will be key"
👉 Team announcement: https://t.co/q0xdLbtUhQ#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever #NZLvRSA pic.twitter.com/s9wRIiUtxV
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 21, 2021
Of the starting XV that beat England, 12 are starting on Saturday against the All Blacks. Flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and right wing Cheslin Kolbe are the only two not available through injury.
The Bok match-day 23 includes 18 players who were in the World Cup final match-day 23 and replacement flank Marco van Staden is the only player who wasn’t at the World Cup.
No, Laurie, this is very much the same same players of two years ago and of two months ago.
No, Laurie, having a poor Test against Australia in Brisbane, where the Boks have won once in 28 years, does not equate to hitting rock bottom and a team, who had won 13 of their last 15 Tests before heading to Australia is not a team that represents rock bottom of South African rugby.
Laurie Mains, in his playing days, clearly took one knock too many to the head because if his brain was working, as it should, he would know that 12 of Saturday’s starting XV started the 32-12 World Cup-final victory against England.
Mains’s ramblings are embarrassing to the All Blacks and the build-up to the 100th Test between the All Blacks and the Springboks deserved greater insight from far more revered All Blacks players, coaches and media commentators.
Also on www.keo.co.za