Boks must be more clin­i­cal – Meyer

‘Play­ers must take ‘ their chances and ‘ keep ball-in-hand’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ASHFAK MO­HAMED London

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.”

PIC­TURE: GALLO IMAGES

KICKER: Bryan Ha­bana.

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