BOKS HAVE TO FIN­ISH

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN RUGBY WRITER

IF THE Spring­boks are to make it seven wins in a row against France in Paris on Satur­day, they are go­ing to have to be far more clin­i­cal in fin­ish­ing off the chances they cre­ate than was the case last week­end at Twick­en­ham.

While Rassie Eras­mus’ team did ev­ery­thing right to start their north­ern-hemi­sphere tour on a win­ning note – like dom­i­nate pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory and win most de­part­ments – their fin­ish­ing cost them dearly as they went down 12-11 to Eng­land.

In fact, at half-time, hav­ing en­joyed 78 per­cent ter­ri­tory and 67 per­cent pos­ses­sion and with Eng­land re­duced to 14 men for 10 min­utes when lock Maro Itoje was in the bin, the Boks should have just about been home and dry.

They didn’t cap­i­talise on their strong po­si­tion though and af­ter 80 min­utes had scored only one try. The last time the Boks failed to cross the white­wash on more than one oc­ca­sion in 80 min­utes was against the same Eng­land team in June, in South Africa.

Then, in the first Test at El­lis Park, the Boks scored four tries, but in the sub­se­quent two Tests – at the Free State Sta­dium and New­lands – Rassie Eras­mus’ team only man­aged one try per game.

In the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, hav­ing set­tled un­der the new coach and got­ten to grips with his play­ing style and plan, the Boks scored 17 tries in six matches, and never less than two per game.

And while Tests against France in re­cent years have been far from the free-flow­ing af­fairs of yes­ter­year, Eras­mus will cer­tainly want an im­proved ef­fort from his men on at­tack this week­end. Of course, it didn’t help that the Boks bat­tled on their at­tack­ing line-out close to the Eng­land line, some­thing which will, hope­fully, have been sorted out in the last few days; while the ar­rival in the squad this week of the more dy­namic Faf de Klerk is also sure to boost the team’s nip­pi­ness around the scrums, rucks and mauls.

Dif­fer­ent en­ergy

De Klerk wasn’t avail­able last week and while Ivan van Zyl did lit­tle wrong in his first start in the green and gold, the for­mer Li­ons player, who now runs out for Sale in Eng­land, will bring a dif­fer­ent en­ergy to the side. He was, af­ter all, called “a lit­tle buz­z­saw” by Eng­land coach Ed­die Jones in June.

The avail­abil­ity, too, of full­back Wil­lie le Roux, who has be­come a key man in the Boks’ at­tack­ing game un­der Eras­mus, will also give the team a greater at­tack­ing threat from deep. While young Damian Willemse, like Van Zyl, per­formed well at Twick­en­ham, Le Roux’s ex­pe­ri­ence, un­pre­dictabil­ity and kick-pass game – when pop­ping up in the fly­half chan­nel – was missed by the Boks last week­end.

The poor han­dling of last Satur­day will also al­most cer­tainly be­much-im­proved this week, with the play­ers hav­ing shaken off the cob­webs, many of whom last played sev­eral weeks ago be­fore last week’s Test.

Mean­while, a small mat­ter that has gone al­most un­no­ticed about the loss to Eng­land is the fact it was the first Test this year, and with Eras­mus in charge, that the Boks didn’t con­cede a try. All Eng­land’s points came via penalty kicks. In all 10 pre­vi­ous Tests this sea­son the Boks con­ceded at least one try.

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