Keep­ing Bok ball cru­cial for Kiwi Test

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT&RACING - WYNONA LOUW

CAPE TOWN: Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee says they are “fo­cused on hold­ing onto the ball” and mak­ing sure that they don’t “just give it away” when they host the All Blacks in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship at New­lands to­day (kick-off 5.05pm/SS1).

And that’s great to hear, be­cause in Al­bany, when the Boks were hum­bled 57-0 by the New Zealan­ders, their ball re­ten­tion was a sorry sight.

They failed to look af­ter the ball and, of course, the All Blacks needed no in­vi­ta­tion to pounce on that and string to­gether a few po­tent coun­ter­at­tack­ing dis­plays.

Against the Wal­la­bies, when the Spring­boks had to be happy with a 27-all draw, the Boks looked good with ball in hand and they cre­ated a lot of scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but han­dling er­rors pre­vented them from con­vert­ing it into points.

And in the build-up to the New­lands Test, Coet­zee also said that they’ve worked on their ball re­ten­tion, but I re­ally hope that “hold­ing onto the ball” doesn’t mean that the Boks are go­ing to try and play tighter, more struc­tured, more con­ser­va­tively to­day and keep the kind of game that will see them set­ting up phase af­ter phase with no room for the im­proved in­ter­play and width that we’ve seen from them re­cently.

“The pleas­ing thing is that we cre­ated those op­por­tu­ni­ties. The im­por­tant thing is that play­ers un­der­stand that the next ac­tion won’t al­ways lead to a try.”

Look, I un­der­stand that Coet­zee’s main fo­cus now is to pre­vent another one-sided try fest, and who can blame him af­ter Al­bany and two Rugby Cham­pi­onship draws against a Wal­la­bies side also try­ing to find their rhythm. It makes com­plete sense.

But it also makes sense to con­tinue work­ing on their new at­tack­ing path, and re­vert­ing to a “safer” ap­proach may, or it may not, help them to limit the dam­age in Cape Town to­day. But how will that help them in the long run if they re­ally want to make the change? Be­sides, it’s not like the Ki­wis can’t adapt.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bok coach, his team has learnt how to deal with the pres­sure.

“In Al­bany we learnt how to op­er­ate un­der pres­sure. Some of our guys played the All Blacks for the first time and faced the Haka for the first time…and all those lit­tle things. Maybe it was blown up too much. But this week we’re look­ing for a col­lec­tive per­for­mance and we want to re­spect the ball. We’ve made an ef­fort to make sure we hold onto it.

“We have to fix the prob­lems we had in Al­bany. We’ve also worked hard at scrum­mag­ing this week, so hope­fully we’ll see an im­prove­ment there.”

“We had a few chal­lenges in Al­bany – we had to make a cou­ple of changes in that week, now we’ve got guys train­ing in the sys­tem, so it has to go bet­ter.”

Against the Wal­la­bies, the Boks showed good vari­a­tion at the li­ne­out, as they in­volved their backs and al­ter­nated stan­dard li­ne­outs with short ones.

But when asked if they were go­ing to keep it sim­ple against the All Blacks or in­clude a lot of move­ment at the set­piece again, Coet­zee didn’t want to give any­thing away, and said: “The plan is to get the ball, it doesn’t mat­ter the op­tions, we just need to get the ball. There’s a lot of qual­ity in our li­ne­out.”

He also said that he is hop­ing for a solid im­pact from the bench at New­lands.

“Nor­mally this com­pe­ti­tion takes its toll in the last game, and we’d like to look at our bench this week. The bench has al­ways played their part and I’m look­ing for that im­pact from them.”

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