Onus is on Bok backline to deliver
THE SPRINGBOKS are hurting.
There’s nothing worse than being brought right down to earth after losing to an Irish team who were missing two-thirds of their first-choice front row, their openside flank, both centres and a wing.
Yes, the Boks are also missing a number of players due to injury, but still – they shouldn’t be losing to Ireland, Six Nations champions or not.
And you could see that sentiment coming through in the Boks’ body language this week ahead of tomorrow’s Test against England at Twickenham.
They were just a bit more measured and careful in their answers to questions, and they certainly let out all their frustrations on each other in Monday’s contact session at the Upper Latymer School sports grounds in Acton.
But while the emotion of the Dublin defeat will play a big part in the Bok effort tomorrow, it is rather the attention to detail and readiness to react to each moment that will need to be in place if they are to continue their eight-year unbeaten run against the English.
The Boks have been at their best this season when they have done things with purpose and imposed themselves on their opponents – whether it is in the set-pieces, with their physicality or kicking their goals. They need to set the tone tomorrow, unlike in Dublin, when Ireland started with a bang and never relented.
Star No 8 Duane Vermeulen couldn’t hold on to the first up-and-under from Johnny Sexton in the first minute, and then Bryan Habana was tackled into touch soon afterwards when he fielded a kick close to the Bok 22.
That cannot be allowed to happen tomorrow. There needs to be better concentration when the Boks are on attack and have possession. Too often last week there was miscommunication between Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard and Jan Serfontein, as well as the loose forwards. They were all getting in each other’s way, and that is how the ball was coughed up on several occasions.
Cobus Reinach will be bursting out of his skin when he runs out for his first Test start, and he must be allowed to play his natural game – looking for the break around the fringes, and getting the ball quickly out to the backs. Tactical kicking is not the strongest part of his game, but if he can settle down quickly, he has a boot good enough to take some pressure off Patrick Lambie at flyhalf.
England No9 Danny Care, though, is a handful and in his 50th Test appearance, will want to have a big game. He will need to be watched closely, as he is the heartbeat of the English backline.
While Lambie will look to create space for his outside backs from flyhalf, it will be of no use if Serfontein and captain Jean de Villiers barely utilise their wings. Habana and Cornal Hendricks hardly saw the ball at the Aviva Stadium as the Boks looked to go up the middle instead of stretching the Irish defence.
The onus is on the Bok backline to deliver against England, as there wasn’t much more that the forwards could’ve done in the Irish Test.