Kicking goals won’t be enough to beat the best
Coetzee won’t change Steyn as ‘he understands what is needed’
DESPITE their recent form and a hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in Christchurch three weeks ago, there is a small flame of belief for the Springboks on this wet Durban day.
There is no way that the Boks can go toe- to- toe with the world’s best right now, but there are a few factors that could go their way.
Kicking maestro Morne Steyn was the hero of Loftus last Saturday against the Wallabies. It wasn’t pretty, or even that exciting, but many a disillusioned fan had a smile in the office on Monday morning.
Bok coach Allister Coetzee has reiterated that the set- piece will be their foundation and if it leads to dominance over 80 minutes, then the ball- in- hand game should come.
The All Blacks have had a rigorous travel schedule. Playing in the cauldron that is Argentina before flying to Durban, it is bound to dull their edge. But captain Kieran Read believes that they have had enough rest on the coast despite the short turn- around.
“We only got into Durban late on Monday, so it’s been a short turnaround. We’ve had to work hard to ensure our bodies and minds are ready for what we will experience on Saturday,” Read said yesterday.
“But we’ve been doing this travel ( between Argentina and South Africa) for the past three or four years. We’ve prepared in much the same way, and have been reasonably successful.
“So this week, it’s been about trusting in that process and believing that we will be in a position to fire on the weekend.”
Of course, the All Blacks have had to make adjustments after star scrumhalf Aaron Smith was sent home in disgrace following a dalliance with a female at Christchurch Airport. Since then, he has made a teary apology and has left his teammates in the capable hands of TJ Perenara.
Durban itself has its own hoodoo over New Zealand. Out of eight encounters at Kings Park, only three have gone the way of the Kiwis. Rain is also predicted, which should play into the hands of the more conservative hosts.
Meanwhile, Coetzee believes Faf de Klerk’s defence is not problematic and Steyn just needs to repeat his performance from last week’s 18- 10 victory over the Aussies.
Rudy Paige’s concussion and a groin problem for Jesse Kriel saw De Klerk reinstated at No 9 and Damian de Allende at inside centre despite both battling with their performances recently.
Apart from being caught at the back of rucks and being indecisive at times, De Klerk was guilty of a number of defensive errors in the 41- 13 defeat to the All Blacks at the AMI Stadium, and after starting seven Tests in 2016, he was axed for the Wallaby encounter.
His Lions halfback partner Elton Jantjies also had to make way after another unconvincing performance at No 10, with former and current Bulls Steyn and Paige getting an opportunity.
But after resisting the temptation to move Francois Hougaard from wing to scrumhalf, Coetzee feels De Klerk won’t repeat his mistakes today, where he will be up against the in- form Perenara.
“With Rudy Paige concussed and hasn’t made the protocol, I looked to give Faf another opportunity.
“Of course he’s in my ( opinion) a great rugby player. And obviously, he would’ve learned from lessons in the past – he’ll be a better player come this weekend,” he said.
“Look, defensively it wasn’t just Faf de Klerk’s problem. It starts at set- piece and they got a good scrum and the left shoulder up.
“We cannot afford to allow that – our flankers… it’s crucial to assist Faf with that.
“He might be a different scrumhalf to Rudy Paige, but the basics of the game stay the same – he’s got to have accurate service, clean the ball and get it away as quickly as possible to make sure Morne has enough time and space before their rush defence gets to them.”
Steyn was hailed by the coach for scoring all 18 points with four penalties and two drop goals against Australia.
But the reality is that while he kicked well at goal, his tactical kicking left a lot to be desired as a number of aimless kicks just handed possession back to the Wallabies.
The Australians weren’t able to take full advantage of that, although they did score from a bad kick by Bryan Habana, with Israel Folau launching the counter- attack that saw Scott Sio falling over the line under the uprights.
The All Black back- three of Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Waisake Naholo are lethal in space, while flyhalf Beauden Barrett also possesses extreme pace and will test Steyn’s direct defence.
Just kicking goals won’t be enough to beat the world champions, though, and Steyn will need to bring in strike- runners such as Juan de Jongh, Habana and Hougaard out wide.
“Morne Steyn, like I said last week, did a great job for us against Australia. He’s been around the block and he’s an experienced player. We are not going to force Morne Steyn to change his game per se, but he understands what is needed,” Coetzee said.
“He understands that at 10, we need to have sharp decisions, quick decisions, without any other unforced errors in that position, and he’s been doing that.”
CAN FAF PASS THE TJ TEST? The hopes of the world champions rest in the hands of TJ Perenara, while opposite number Faf de Klerk gets a shot at redemption in Durban today.