South Africa's Super Rugby sides can produce better results, and the Springboks can challenge more strongly for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, if they place a little more trust in their back-three players, Naas Botha says.
The nation's top-level teams are known stereotypically for the strength and prowess of their forwards, but Botha told ESPN exclusively after accepting a short-term role as India's head coach, as the national men's and women's rugby teams prepare for the Asia Rugby Championship in June, that their wingers and fullbacks were also genuine match-winners if given the opportunity.
Curwin Bosch, making his first start of the season, was man of the match at fullback as the Sharks trumped the Lions in impressive fashion in the rain at Emirates Airline Park on Friday, when he combined brilliantly with his wingers Makazole Mpimpi, Lwazi Mvovo and replacement Aphelele Fassi in a living, breathing embodiment of Botha's point that hitherto had mostly not been seen from a South African team during the campaign.
Elsewhere in Super Rugby this season, Warrick Gelant, Rosko Specman and Cornell Hendricks have impressed for the Bulls when given their limited opportunities within the team's rigid territorial game plan, while running backline play is embedded in the Lions' DNA but the three-time losing finalists have struggled with injuries; still, only the Stormers of the South African sides have struggled to involve their back three consistently.
Factor in that S'busiso Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi, likely the first-choice Boks wingers before Super Rugby kicked off, have suffered injuries this season, and Europe-based Willie le Roux and Cheslin Kolbe are perhaps likely to be on the plane to Japan, subject to form and fitness, then Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus has a wealth of options to consider for the No. 11, 14 and 15 jumpers.
"I know we love the direct rugby but especially with the back three players of South Africa, the two wings and full-back, I still believe if you create space for them, a one-on-one scenario, they will surprise people," Botha, the World Rugby Hall of Fame member who played for Northern Transvaal and South Africa, winning 28 Test Caps with the Springboks, told ESPN.
"Sometimes [South Africans] tend to believe too much in putting opposition under pressure with the kick. If the kick is not really on the spot then teams score against us, and that's why we need to be careful."
Botha thought the South African teams could have been "a bit stronger result wise" through the Super Rugby season to this point, and he said "standard-wise I would like to see more skill from the players".
"I think sometimes we need to trust the players a little bit more," he said.
"Certain guys, certain cultures, prefer the game-plan more than the player. I'm a kind of guy who prefers player to game-plan."
For all that, however, Botha is quite happy with South African rugby's positioning in the world order a little more than five months before the global showpiece kicks off in Japan -- albeit that two-time defending champions New Zealand will go in as deserving favourites to complete a title hat-trick.
"At the moment [South Africa] are looking quite good," he said.
"Our first-phase players are magnificent.
"I still believe we can score more tries with the backline but that's talking as an outsider... Handre Pollard at the moment seems to be in absolutely fantastic form, get the right scrum-half at nine -- we've got a couple of good ones [Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl], we just need to decide who's the best out of them -- and then the centres need to be a little bit more creative.
"I think sometimes we tend to believe a little bit more in defence than attack, and we have quite a few good quality players to attack a little bit more and score a few tries. We played some superb rugby against New Zealand last year. We need to do it more on regular basis, and can't be a one-game wonder."