The Springboks believe they have adjusted to the northern hemisphere ruck contest to make the right decisions more often than not, reports JON CARDINELLI in Paris.
The Boks are heading into their final tour fixture against France full of confidence. Publicly, they have been very pleased with the breakdown performances against Wales and Scotland. And privately there have been one or two admissions that they took their foot off the gas in the second half against Scotland. There is still plenty of petrol left in the tank for the tour-defining clash with France.
The performance at Murrayfield was not perfect and, as expected, Scotland applied the pressure at the breakdown. When SARugbymag.co.za put this to assistant coach Johann van Graan on Tuesday, he said that it would be wrong to compare the past two performances in Europe with those in the Rugby Championship. The conditions are different, referees allow for a greater contest on the ground, and so teams need to adapt.
BOKS HAVE ADAPTED
Last Sunday, the Boks conceded a number of penalties in this area, and referee Jerome Garces eventually lost his patience. Replacement flank Marcell Coetzee was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements, and the Boks are fortunate that this didn't cost them any points.
However, Van Graan said this is the risk you run when you are contesting so intensely at the breakdown.
'We want to concede as few penalties as possible, but the past two weeks have seen a massive contest at the scrums, lineouts, and breakdowns,' he said. 'We concede the most penalties at the breakdown at this stage, but we also win the most turnovers. It's about finding the right balance.
'Our decision-making has improved a lot,' he continued. 'Sometimes you have to go for the ball and you will get it wrong. But we got it right quite a lot over the weekend.
'There was a turnover made by Duane Vermeulen in our own 22, and also one made by Bismarck du Plessis. Those were two examples of great decision-making. Yes, we want to concede as few penalties as possible, but we are winning more than we are losing at this stage.'
Saturday's battle at the Stade de France is bound to be physical, especially at the breakdown. The good news for South Africa is that they're likely to have Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, and Vermeulen operating as a combination. While all three are powerful ball-carriers and defenders, all three are also very strong on the deck.
The Boks will also be boosted by the reinstatement of Du Plessis as the starting hooker. Van Graan mentioned that Adriaan Strauss had a strong game against Scotland and affirmed his status as one of the best hookers in the world. However, Du Plessis will lend the Boks something extra in the breakdown battle this Saturday, both in terms of his decision-making and strength over the ball.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
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