Here’s whatPHOTO: it’ll take to win

CityPress - - Sport -

Line-out con­sis­tency

Last year, the Boks lost two games, against Aus­tralia in Bris­bane and Eng­land at Twick­en­ham, thanks to a wonky line-out. In a team with four line-out op­tions at any given time, it’s frankly un­ac­cept­able to in­clude lock Pieter-Steph du Toit at blind­side flank and un­der­rated line-out for­ward Duane Ver­meulen. Bongi Mbonambi emerged with the blame from the Bris­bane loss and Mal­colm Marx was front-and-cen­tre at Twick­en­ham, mean­ing both front-line hook­ers are sus­cep­ti­ble to the throw­ing yips ev­ery other game. Con­sis­tently get­ting it right is some­thing they have to work on this year.

A vel­vet glove for the iron fist mid­field

Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel ended the sea­son as Spring­bok coach Rassie Eras­mus’ go-to cen­tre pair­ing. The duo is solid in physique and out­put, the for­mer pre­fer­ring to pin­ball off de­fend­ers with ball in hand and the lat­ter lik­ing the ball to stop with him. As a re­sult, they do lit­tle by cre­at­ing space or re­leas­ing those out­side them. The prof­fered al­ter­na­tive to the same­ness of­fered by De Allende and Kriel is the cere­bral duo of Jan Ser­fontein and Lukhanyo Am. Hav­ing re­quested to not be con­sid­ered for the Boks to con­cen­trate on his club ca­reer in France, Ser­fontein has his work cut out to un­tan­gle him­self from the per­ceived slight, while Am is al­most 100% healed from break­ing his arm. The other so­lu­tion is shift­ing fly-half Han­drè Pol­lard to in­side cen­tre and start­ing El­ton Jan­tjies at No 10, as has been the case late in matches in the lat­ter half of the Boks’ sea­son. What­ever the best fix may be, there needs to be a lit­tle vel­vet to go with the iron fist in the Boks’ mid­field.

A less hit-and-miss, kick-and-chase game

One of Eras­mus’ main goals when he took over the Boks was to im­prove their work un­der the high ball. Com­pared with re­cent years, it has vastly im­proved and has not ex­actly been in­con­sis­tent, as both kick­ers and in­tended re­cip­i­ents find the sweet spot, ac­cu­racy-wise. There is lit­tle time to get said kick­ers and chasers singing from the same hymn sheet as the All Blacks, who have been on that path since com­ing off sec­ond best to the Boks in 2009, and the Ir­ish have been of late, but it’s one as­pect of the Boks’ game that has to im­prove this year.

A lit­tle less pre­dictabil­ity in at­tack

Aside from the line-out woes in Bris­bane and Twick­en­ham, the other is­sue was that the Boks just didn’t have the cut­ting edge to put the op­po­si­tion away in the first half in both games, de­spite boast­ing the lion’s share of pos­ses­sion. When­ever the Boks ran into teams with the right de­fence and the will­ing­ness to match them phys­i­cally, they ap­peared to run out of an­swers. With an at­tack­ing arse­nal that in­cludes wingers Aphiwe Dyan­tyi, Sbu Nkosi, Ch­es­lin Kolbe and Maka­zole Mapimpi, as well as full­backs Wil­lie le Roux and War­rick Ge­lant, this shouldn’t be the case. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, at­tack is usu­ally the last thing that coaches put in place. With the World Cup be­ing held this year, as op­posed to next year, the Boks have to com­plete the sexy bits posthaste.

MUZI NTOMBELA / BACKPAGEPIX

The mid­field pair­ing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende has been lack­ing in cre­ativ­ity

PHOTO: GAVIN BARKER / BACKPAGEPIX

Damian de Allende has be­come one of Spring­bok coach Rassie Eras­mus’ go-to men

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