Retired Springbok lock Victor Matfield believes too many modern players are 'robotic' and simply don't understand the game.
Matfield, a great supporter of structures, do believe that too many players make no effort to understand why they do certain things within those structures.
Regarded as one of the best analytical minds within South Africa, if not the entire rugby world, the 100-Test cap veteran said South Africa have always had some of the best talent in the world.
Matfield, speaking to this website in an interview to mark the Cape Town launch of his book, Victor: My Journey, said it is all about getting those players to perform to their true potential.
"Too many players simply don't understand what they do [on the field] or why they are doing it," he said.
"The players must understand the game, know when to make calls - such as when to run from behind you own goalline and when it is vital to kick for territory."
Asked if he felt that in the modern game players are being coached into becoming too robotic, he said: "There must be structure, but they players must understand the reason for those structures.
"They need to know why they are required to do certain things. Many players just do what they are told without making an effort to understand the reasoning behind those structures."
Matfield also spoke about the role senior players play in the modern game.
In his book he revealed how the senior players - like Bok captain John Smit and Matfield himself - spoke to coach Peter de Villiers about changing the national team's game plan.
De Villiers wanted a more expansive game plan, but the players convinced him that a more 'structured' game is the way to go.
While the veteran of the team managed to convince De Villiers to see it their way, Matfield felt it is important that the coach remains in charge and that 'player power' should not be abused.
"The one thing that's very important is that the final decision always lies with the head coach," Matfield said, when asked about this passage in his book.
"It can't be different, and it has always been like that. Peter [de Villiers] always facilitated senior group and coaching meetings, where we sat together and talked about things, but the final decisions rest with him.
"Although we had huge input, we never had the final say, and that was very important."
Another aspect addressed was the debate around John Smit's captaincy - where many felt that the best hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, should have started in the No.2. jersey and Matfield should have been captain.
Matfield also addressed the issue in his book, and consistently voiced his support for Smit as captain.
However, in the interview he admitted that it was a 'tricky' situation.
"It's one of those catch-22 issues," Matfield said, adding: "I just believe that it wasn't my place to say or do anything. Do I say: 'Listen John, I support you 100, and let's go to the coach and tell him I don't want to be the captain, and you are the captain'? Then, what must a guy like Bismarck [du Plessis] think?
"Or, if I go to the coach and say: 'I should be captain, John is not worth it'? Then everybody would think this guy is arrogant and just wants the captaincy. So, I was in a very difficult situation," he said.
"The only thing I could do, as the vice-captain, was to support John and give him everything I had. And if they asked me to captain the side, I was available to do that to the best of my ability, and that's what I did."
Matfield felt that because Smit had supported the coach, De Villiers, throughout his four-year tenure, the Bok mentor was also in a tough situation.
If he had wanted to bring Du Plessis in ahead of Smit, it had to be done well in advance of the World Cup.
"I think it is a very difficult call to make just before a World Cup. If they wanted to do it, it should've been maybe earlier," he said.
"The structure had been working in a certain way, and now you want to throw the captain away. Then it's 'Who's next?' It was a difficult thing.
"Peter was under huge pressure, and John had supported him the whole four years. It's difficult, those things. It's not just about what's happening on the field. It's about the dynamics of the whole squad."
Matfield, asked if South Africans playing abroad should be selected for the national team, he felt those players must return to South Africa.
Matfield, in his book, explained how he wanted to return to his hometown - after a stint with Toulon in France - in order to be available for the Boks again.
He said that there should be some regulation to ensure the country's talent is not drained by cash-flush European clubs.
"I think we need to keep our players in South Africa," Matfield said, adding: "The only way to do that is to say you need to play in South Africa to be a Springbok.
"There are some fantastic players abroad, so again when the coach is announced he will make the decision. When Peter [de Villiers] started, he said he was going to pick two foreigners ... that was his limit. Then, that changed a little.
"Somehow we need to keep the players in SA and that is the only way ... there must be some regulations about that."
By Jan de Koning
* Also, look out for the fourth and final installment of the Victor Matfield interview, in which he tells us about his plans for the future.
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