Columnist Grant Ball questions how many of the Bok starting XV has improved over the last four years.
One player from 2007, Bismarck du Plessis, is colossal and has improved markedly to be the best hooker in the world, but he won't start in the matches that count - unless John Smit gets injured.
Going through the entire Bok squad who won four years ago in France, its clear none are superior players to what they were then. This past weekend De Villiers called Smit the best hooker in the world, a joke to any person who watches international rugby. Smit's selflessness in swapping between hooker, tighthead and loosehead over the last four years has seen his weight fluctuate, with disastrous effects on his on-field ability and mobility. Say what you want about his leadership, but is Smit a better player now? No.
Victor Matfield is just as important to the Bok game-plan, but he also isn't a better player. Bakkies Botha? Inconsistent over the last four years. Danie Rossouw is no longer an eighthman, but can do a good job at lock. Johann Muller hasn't played in months and is only in the squad as an experienced option due to Andries Bekker's injury. CJ van der Linde has regressed, while there could be an argument made for Jannie du Plessis's slight improvement. Gurthrö Steenkamp had a memorable 2010, but like Bismarck, isn't a definite starter.
Schalk Burger has been consistent since 2007, but is he a better player? That's not a given.
Fourie du Preez is widely acknowledged as one of the best scrumhalves in the world, but heads into this year's tournament having not had much game-time and Will Genia pushing him closely for that tag. Butch James has delivered solid showings over the past four years, but he's unlikely to start. If he does, he offers the Boks much more on attack which will seep through into other aspects of their game, but without a definite attacking structure (which has disintegrated under De Villiers), that makes James's job much more difficult.
The midfield of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie isn't any better, while Bryan Habana's case is the most depressing. 31 tries in 37 Tests by the end of 2007 - now he still only has 38. Seven tries in four years, the majority of those against Italy.
Also saddening is the decline of talented pair Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn - forced overseas due to their conflicts with De Villiers. The coach's one strength is supposed to be man management - these two examples defy those assertions. JP Pietersen is another youngster who hasn't improved.
De Villiers has backed the majority of the squad who won in 2007, but there are no clear cases where those returning are better than they were in France. The game has evolved, and unfortunately not many Boks have developed at the same rate. What is without doubt is that the Bok game plan is limited and is over-reliant on the kick-chase/bash with the forwards. In 2007 the Boks at least had some subtlety, with their attack off the line-out the best in the tournament.
The Boks' defence has also leaked tries recently, with no signs of improvement.
Any international coach's job is to leave the side in a better state than he found it. Will De Villiers hand this squad over to his successor in healthy condition? No, he won't.
Some young Boks have had matches against Saracens, Leicester, the third Lions Test and the recent away leg of the Tri-Nations without ever experiencing a win in a Bok jersey. If in future they're afforded the chance to play for the Boks again, they won't go into those matches with any confidence or happy memories.
So if the Boks do win, and there's a real chance they can, De Villiers will get the praise - although the above shows it won't be down to any De Villiers master plan. If the Boks fail at the World Cup, De Villiers will have received due reward for taking the country's rugby back many years and thwarting the development of various players.
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