Jon Cardinelli

Hard work ahead for misfiring Boks

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers Springbok captain Jean de Villiers

The Springboks have admitted that there's much to improve before next week's showdown with the All Blacks, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cape Town.

The final result has been celebrated, but there's no getting away from the fact that the performance at Newlands this past Saturday was erratic and inconsistent.

The Boks changed their game plan for this particular match and attempted to push for the four-try bonus point from a very early stage in the game. This backfired in the sense that their high-risk strategy culminated in more errors than try-scoring successes.

A pathetic Wallabies side got off light, but what will concern the Boks is that they have much to do ahead of a decisive game against the All Blacks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

After the 28-8 victory at Newlands, Bok captain Jean de Villiers tried to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. He also defended the game plan as well as his decisions to kick for the touchline rather than for goal at crucial moments.

De Villiers also felt he had got it right when he asked Morné Steyn to shoot for goal when the Boks were 17-3 up, and the Wallabies had a man in the sin-bin.

'We wanted to win the game first and foremost. We wanted to build a comfortable lead before opening up in the latter stages. I believe we got the first part right,' he said.

Speaking to some of the other Bok players, however, it's clear that the prevailing feeling is one of a great opportunity missed at Newlands.

Apart from the fact that they failed to score the bonus-point try, there is a sense that the performance was not particularly good. While the Boks fired during those first 20 minutes, they were inconsistent in the following 60.

Their momentum was compromised by the yellow card to lock Flip van der Merwe, but even when the team was restored to its full complement, the Boks did not play with much conviction or control in the latter stages.

'We lost structure at some points in the game, and our discipline wasn't great,' admitted vice-captain Adriaan Strauss. 'We tried to play a bit too expansively at times and it didn't come off.'

The Boks beat the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium on 7 September to break a long-standing record at the ground, and this Saturday's 28-8 win over the Australians was another record for a Bok side at Newlands.

However, Strauss noted the improvement of the Wallabies scrum at Newlands, and how the visitors managed to nullify the Boks in other areas.

'They were much better at the scrum, they caught us out technically,' he said. 'They also defended a lot better at the maul.

'It wasn't good enough and we will need to be at 100% if we're going to beat the All Blacks. It was an up-and-down showing at Newlands, and we can't have that next week.'

One of Strauss's front-row partners, Jannie du Plessis, played in his 50th Test at Newlands on Saturday. Du Plessis agreed that the Boks were far from clinical, although he was quick to state that the issues would be addressed, and that the problems could be fixed.

'Our defence was much better on this occasion, we showed a marked improvement on that performance against the All Blacks at Eden Park,' Du Plessis said. 'We weren't so consistent in other areas.

'There is hard work ahead. We were unhappy with the maul. It''s something we pride ourselves on, and to not get the reward was disappointing.

'We will view this as a great learning curve. We will work our butts off to rectify things in the coming week.'

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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