Meyer’s break­down co­nun­drum

With Wales loom­ing, Boks are still bat­tling to re­tain pos­ses­sion at key area

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ASHFAK MO­HAMED

THE SPRING­BOKS may point to three tries and a 16-point win­ning mar­gin as tan­gi­ble proof that it was a suc­cess­ful out­come after a tough af­ter­noon against Italy in Padova at the week­end.

But, go­ing into the fi­nal Test of the year against Wales at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer needs to find a way in which they can utilise the sur­feits of pos­ses­sion that the tight-five are sup­ply­ing.

Meyer in­sists that the fail­ure to con­vert their con­sid­er­able pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory into more points and tries is not down to the game­plan or the mind­set, which is a fair point as the Boks have def­i­nitely adapted their over­all strat­egy to a much more pos­i­tive and at­tack­ing one.

They have scored some won­der­ful tries in the last two years, with two of those from this year’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship be­ing nom­i­nated for the In­ter­na­tional Try-of-the-Year award.

In­stead, the coach be­lieves the break­down is the ma­jor prob­lem on at­tack.

“The break­down is still a tough area to talk about. If you don’t get quick ball … They got quick ball and I thought we were very dis­ci­plined at the break­down. When­ever we had quick ball, we looked like we could play rugby, like in the last 10 min­utes,” said Meyer.

“But that’s an area every­body in the world, I think, needs to look at. If it wasn’t for the scrum, we would’ve been in big trou­ble as they would’ve kicked for the cor­ner and it gives them en­ergy. I re­ally thought that at­tack­ing-wise, it was at times some of our best plays. We tried to keep the ball in hand and there were one or two in­stances when we should’ve scored and didn’t.

“If you are go­ing to get slow ball from the break­down and then the de­fence is set, the only other op­tion is to kick in be­hind them. And if we had to do that in this game, we would’ve got a lot of crit­i­cism as well.

“I thought that at­tack­ing­wise we did bril­liantly, and when (Jo­han) Goosen came in, we cut them once or twice. The prob­lem is not the at­tack and the at­tack­ing mind­set – it’s al­ways been there – the prob­lem is that if you don’t get quick ball, it doesn’t mat­ter what you do, the de­fence is set and they are just go­ing to spoil and come up and put you un­der pres­sure.

“And that, for me, is a big prob­lem. We showed what we can do on the front foot, es­pe­cially in the last 10 min­utes.

“It’s just a ques­tion of, if you want to play great rugby, you’ve ei­ther got to play from turnovers – and they didn’t give us any turnovers – or you have to have quick ball if you want to cre­ate your own stuff. And we didn’t get any, apart from at the end.”

But de­spite the seem­ingly slow ball from the rucks, re­place­ment loose for­ward Nizaam Carr showed what could be done with just a lit­tle skill and fi­nesse when he ran a won­der­ful line and then off­loaded in the tackle for Cobus Reinach to score.

Sim­i­larly, Wil­lie le Roux showed lovely deft hands to put Han­dré Pol­lard into a hole to set up Bryan Ha­bana’s late try.

So, if Meyer feels that the ap­proach isn’t the prob­lem, then it has to be the play­ers that he is pick­ing. Mar­cell Coet­zee has shown great im­prove­ment in his phys­i­cal­ity this year, but he lacks the flair of a Carr or even Fran­cois Louw.

Duane Ver­meulen also prefers to run straight and di­rect at the de­fence, while Oupa Mo­hoje is in a sim­i­lar mould.

Among the backs, Jan Ser­fontein sel­dom dis­plays the step­ping abil­ity that he showed for the SA Un­der-20 side. Skip­per Jean de Vil­liers does have the foot­work, but he also needs his team­mates to run off his shoul­der and an­tic­i­pate an off­load. Just bash­ing away straight up the mid­dle won’t re­sult in tries.

Per­haps Meyer should give Damian de Al­lende an op­por­tu­nity in mid­field again as he hasn’t seen any ac­tion on tour.

Fly­half Pa­trick Lam­bie def­i­nitely took on the ad­van­tage line much more against Italy, but his pass­ing game let him down at times – es­pe­cially when a floater didn’t reach JP Pi­etersen, with the Bok wing knock­ing the ball on as he reached for­ward to try and catch it.

Pol­lard’s long pass to Ha­bana – just be­fore he was smashed in the tackle – was a piece of bril­liant skill and tech­ni­cal abil­ity, while his foot­work and pace could make him a hand­ful for the Welsh back­line, so Meyer should con­sider bring­ing him back at No 10.

First-choice loose­head prop Tendai Mtawarira (fa­tigue and cramps) should be fit again, but Trevor Nyakane played so well that he de­serves to get another start. Tight­head Jan­nie du Plessis’s ham­string strain will be eval­u­ated to­day.

With the over­seas-based play­ers un­avail­able this week, Le Roux will be back at No 15 in place of Jo­han Goosen, while there will be two new wings as well (Ha­bana and Pi­etersen can’t play). Cor­nal Hen­dricks is sure to be at No 14, with Lwazi Mvovo likely to take over at left wing as Saru an­nounced last night that the only other spe­cial­ist wing in the squad, WP flyer Se­abelo Se­natla, will re­turn to the Spring­bok Sevens team this week and won’t be avail­able for the Wales Test.

The Bok man­age­ment have not yet de­cided whether they will fly out a re­place­ment. THERE WERE 23 min­utes left at the Sta­dio Eu­ga­neo in Padova on Satur­day, and the Spring­boks were lead­ing by a nar­row 8-6 mar­gin.

That is almost as tight as it can get, and the Boks were bat­tling to get into their rhythm and were be­ing met by a strong Ital­ian de­fen­sive wall.

So, you would think that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer would think twice be­fore send­ing on any sub­sti­tutes at that crit­i­cal stage – es­pe­cially a debu­tant – but he made four changes within a minute of each other to go with Bis­marck du Plessis' ear­lier ar­rival – Gurthro Steenkamp, Han­dré Pol­lard, Wil­lie le Roux and then Nizaam Carr.

And within two min­utes, it was Carr who fi­nally found a way through the res­o­lute Ital­ians with his first touch as he ran a dy­namic an­gle from a Le Roux pass, break­ing the line and then swiv­el­ling around to pro­duce a stun­ning off­load in the tackle to Cobus Reinach to fly over.

“To be hon­est, I ac­tu­ally didn’t think I was go­ing to go on be­cause the game was so tight – I re­mem­ber that it was 8-6 at that stage and I wasn’t even on the pitch yet. So, they called up Gurthro, they called up my­self, and I was like ‘Yoh!’ – the coach re­ally backed us and, ob­vi­ously, I am thank­ful,” the Western Prov­ince star


ON THE RUN: Nizaam Carr made his first Test ap­pear­ance for the Spring­boks, com­ing on in the 57th minute, against Italy on Satur­day. The Boks had a oner­ous time in Padova but even­tu­ally ran out 22-6 win­ners.

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