A per­fect tonic in vic­tory

Gone is the han­gover of 2016, as long as Coet­zee and Co at­tack to win

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY

THE SPARKLING qual­ity of some of the tries scored by the Spring­boks in their 37-14 win over France at the week­end are sig­nif­i­cant, not only be­cause it showed an at­tack­ing in­tent that was lamentably lack­ing last sea­son, but also be­cause a pos­i­tive foun­da­tion has been laid.

Con­fi­dence is a tonic that should never be un­der­rated in sport and while the Boks wres­tled for an hour against an un­der-strength French team at Lof­tus, they pre­vailed strongly in the end and on the way mir­rored the brave ap­proach of the Li­ons and the Chee­tahs.

The Chee­tahs? True, there was barely a Chee­tah in sight at Lof­tus, Ray­mond Rhule and Oupa Ma­hoje be­ing the ex­cep­tions, but the in­flu­ence of their coach, Franco Smith (dou­bling as the Bok at­tack coach), was there to be seen in the width the Boks ex­plored on at­tack.

It was a pleas­ing to see the Boks use that width of the field as early in the 17th minute, when a cou­ple of clean, sim­ple, long passes gave Rhule an early chance to stretch his legs. It was just one of those days when the ball did not seem to find Rhule’s wing part­ner, Court­nall Skosan, but hope­fully the Li­ons man will have his chance in the next two Tests.

The Li­ons play­ers pro­vide the back­bone of this Bok team, giv­ing it struc­ture and a pos­i­tive ap­proach, while Smith’s Chee­tahs have en­ter­tained with their cav­a­lier ap­proach to the game (it is just a pity that their de­fence has been so poor).

In Su­per Rugby so far, the Li­ons have scored 64 tries (the third most of the 18 teams) and the Chee­tahs 40 (10th high­est) in a los­ing team.

The point is that the Boks have the am­mu­ni­tion in the play­ing ranks and on the coach­ing staff to build on their pos­i­tive ap­proach. And in Brendan Ven­ter they have a shrewd coach in charge of de­fence that is the ideal sup­port for the at­tack-minded Smith and who is a strong sup­porter of the way for­ward that Coet­zee has en­trusted to the Li­ons play­ers.

Fore­most in this ap­proach is the eight, nine, 10 ap­proach of War­ren White­ley, Ross Cronje and El­ton Jan­tjies.

The lat­ter rev­elled at the week­end in the se­cu­rity and con­fi­dence he ab­sorbed from his Li­ons team­mates in­side him.

Jan­tjies can be a South African ap­prox­i­mate of a Beau­den Bar­rett if he is given the free­dom to play his game; his for­wards are pro­vid­ing the front-foot ball; and the play­ers out­side him trust his abil­i­ties to put them into space.

Cronje clearly gave Jan­tjies the con­fi­dence to play his nat­u­ral game against the French and the scrumhalf’s in­flu­ence on that Springbok vic­tory should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. Cronje, in con­junc­tion with White­ley, read the game ex­cep­tion­ally well and if it had not been for the barn-storm­ing per­for­mance of hooker Mal­colm Marx, would have been the Man of the Match.

The Spring­boks are now in Dur­ban pre­par­ing for the sec­ond Test against the Tri­colours. They now have the be­lief that they can again score tries af­ter the drought of 2016. They cru­cially have the in­es­timable tonic of con­fi­dence, and now they must press on with the ap­proach of “at­tack to win”.

That might sound like stat­ing the ob­vi­ous but last year the Boks did not at­tack and hoped to de­fend and kick goals to scrape wins. That worked four times out of 12 Tests.

The more the Boks score tries this sea­son, the more be­lief and con­fi­dence will be en­gen­dered, and that is why they must con­tinue to go for broke in the sec­ond Test at Kings Park. They were miles away from be­ing per­fect against France but the er­rors will get fewer as the con­fi­dence grows.

Ask the All Blacks. They have no self-doubt and be­lieve that ev­ery time they spread the ball they will score. They in­evitably do when they have good, clean ball and at­tack space, and with suc­cess hav­ing come so of­ten, they at­tack with ar­ro­gance. The wings are scream­ing for the ball. Ju­lian Savea be­lieves he will score just about ev­ery time he gets the ball.

This is what the Boks must as­pire to. They have to set their sights high in 2017 and “at­tack to win” which, in­ci­den­tally, was the ti­tle of South African crick­et­ing great Barry Richards’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy (by the way, I hope a con­sign­ment of that bril­liant book will be dis­trib­uted among the Proteas!).

Well, hope­fully, the Spring­boks give South Africans some­thing to cheer about on Satur­day by “at­tack­ing to win”, by build­ing on the foun­da­tions of Pre­to­ria.

It is not rocket sci­ence; front-foot ball pro­vided by the for­wards, a WILL­ING­NESS to at­tack and then com­mit­ted sup­port for the ball car­rier that is look­ing to off­load as the de­fence en­croaches.

In this re­gard, the Boks have taken baby steps af­ter the hor­rors of 2016. Now let’s see them lengthen their stride.


ONE WING TO ‘RHULE’ THEM ALL: Ray­mond Rhule got a chance to stretch his legs in his Test de­but against France this past week­end due to the new at­tack­minded ap­proach of the Spring­boks.

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