Here’s whatPHOTO: it’ll take to win
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.
The midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende has been lacking in creativity
Damian de Allende has become one of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ go-to men