Obsession with schoolboy rugby, quality of coaching, holding SA rugby back

Ruthless efficiency ...

That is one way to describe the Crusaders' Super Rugby final victory over the Lions, who had 56 percent of the possession and two-thirds of the territory.

But we should actually just call it routine.

The big debate in South Africa remains the question of how the Springboks and the Super Rugby teams must play. There are those who believe in the traditional strengths of South African rugby, with a great emphasis on kicking, defence and strong forward play as the way forward. The ball must only get to the outside backs in the opposition 22.

Then there are those on the other side of the fence who believe that a more ball-in-hand approach, and playing with width, is the answer to become the No 1 team in world rugby again.

However, the problem is that the Crusaders, and indeed and the other New Zealand Super Rugby teams -- and the All Blacks, of course -- can play any game they need to play in any situation. For them, it's not about going into a game wanting to kick, tackle or run more than the opposition. The halfway line doesn't dictate whether they should take a quick lineout or counter attack.

No, they simply sum up the situation, make their decision and execute it accordingly. It's not rocket science, and they have certainly not reinvented the wheel in this regard.

It's got a lot to do with the coaching in New Zealand, where players are given the responsibility to think for themselves from a young age. There is also room to make mistakes, because it's the best way to learn. Their skill set also seems to be on a different level.

In South Africa, it seems to be the opposite.

Talented schoolboys in South Africa who make the move into first-class rugby struggle with their decision-making because they have been told what to do in certain areas of the field from day one.

Schoolboy rugby derbies, especially in the Western Cape, are treated as if they are more important than Super Rugby or a Currie Cup final.

On Saturday, a couple of hours after the Super Rugby final between the Crusaders and the Lions, Paarl Boys' High and Paarl Gimnasium clashed in the biggest schools derby in the country -- quite possibly the world. It's a massive occasion for everyone involved.

The boys playing in these games look like they are too afraid to make mistakes, because there is 'so much at stake'. The kids seem to be playing with blinkers on, preferring to take contact rather than finding a man in a better position.

The quality of coaching in South Africa remains poor, from junior level to Super Rugby level. It's unbelievable to see how most South African rugby players start to find at their feet only at 25 or 26 years old, while New Zealand's top youngsters are ready for international rugby four to five years earlier.

The South African Under-20 side hasn't looked like getting close to a Junior World Championship title despite having the cream of the crop to choose from, the Currie Cup is a joke, and the Super Rugby teams just can't compete properly against the Crusaders of this world. South African coaches just can't take raw talent, which is there are in abundance, to the next level.

The Lions looked like a schoolboy side in the Super Rugby final. Their decision-making and skills let them down in the pressure situation in Christchurch. They didn't adapt to the Crusaders nullifying their maul or the fact they were far too predictable on attack, which made it easy for the home side to attempt 180 tackles.

The Crusaders are probably the best defensive team on the planet. They don't miss tackles, and they use their defence as a weapon to create turnovers. But when they attack, they are simply unstoppable.

Their running, recycling, passing and finishing are just out of this world. And, if you break it down, it's because they back themselves to do it, and do it at speed. It's the way to beat defences these days, getting the ball away from the contact area and through the hands that split second earlier.

The Lions are the closest team to the New Zealanders in terms of their speed and accuracy on attack. But at some stages on Saturday, they looked like they didn't even belong on the same field as the Crusaders. The gulf in skill level and decision-making was clear for all to see.

If South African rugby is serious about competing with New Zealand over the next few years, the debate about how to play rugby must stop. Rather invest the time to empower young players and give them the type of confidence and skills coaching that their New Zealand counterparts are enjoying.

If you want to win big rugby games, you have to do everything well. It's not just about kicking or running. It's about executing.