Boks must be more clinical – Meyer
‘Players must take ‘ their chances and ‘ keep ball-in-hand’
THE SPRINGBOKS won 63 percent territory against Ireland, as well as 55 percent possession, and the reason why they lost was due to a lack of finishing when inside the Irish 22.
So, it was understandable that coach Heyneke Meyer felt a bit frustrated when he was asked if he had learnt from the Irish game that his team need to kick a bit more in the northern hemisphere in order to win in the slippery conditions.
Mind you, Meyer has to take some of the blame for that as he stated immediately after the Irish game that his team should’ve “turned them more” with the boot, just like Johnny Sexton had done to the Boks.
But perhaps having reviewed the game, Meyer has realised that the main problem was actually retaining possession on attack, and that needs fixing before South Africa run out against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
“You are in a lose-lose situation. We’ve been kicking less than probably every single team in the last year, and we still get criticised for kicking too much,” the coach sighed.
“And then you try and run and keep the ball in hand, which you probably try too much, and that was probably our biggest mistake when we tried to play attractive, running rugby – because that’s how we’ve been successful against New Zealand.
“You make 16 turnovers, give away 12 penalties, and that’s one mistake every two minutes. Then people say ‘Why don’t you kick more?’. I think we should find the balance. We always want to play a ball-in-hand game, and we can’t change to that overnight. It’s a system that we have to take through, and I believe all South African teams need to improve with the ball-inhand and keeping the ball, not just in wet conditions, but keeping the ball and having more respect for it.”
Meyer said he was “not pointing fingers at Super Rugby coaches”, but he wanted the players to put in more work on their catching and passing skills, especially in wet conditions. Of course, good tactical kicking is vitally important when the ball is slippery, and the coach stated that “one thing that we are not good at is our kicking game and the contestables. England are very good with that, and New Zealand too”.
“We have been the best in the world with that, but as a nation, I think we have fallen behind in that aspect of the game.”
Also, taking the points from penalties instead of kicking it out to touch to set up a maul, as captain Jean de Villiers decided to do against Ireland, may also be a better option if the flow of the game isn’t quite going in favour of the Boks.
Having said that, Meyer is determined to push on in developing his team’s attacking prowess, which has made signif- icant progress over the last two seasons, but which took a backward step against Ireland.
The ball presentation at the back of the rucks was often scrappy, which played a role in scrumhalf Francois Hougaard having a difficult night, while other players also lost possession when going into contact.
New No9 Cobus Reinach will be hoping to receive better service from his forwards on Saturday in his first Test start.
“That’s going to be our evolvement going forward, definitely. I just feel that we need to find the balance, because you can keep the ball in hand but if your skill level is not good enough, then surely you have to be more conservative. But we definitely want to keep the ball in hand and want to score tries,” the Bok coach said.
“We have to find the balance, but I truly believe that if we want to be the best team in the world, we have to evolve and keep the ball more in hand, and up our skills. We are going to have to make a huge step-up before the World Cup.”
KICKER: Bryan Habana.