• ABs expect balanced Boks

    All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster says they are not expecting the Springboks to overdo the kicking game in this Saturday’s Test at Kings Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.

    Last week’s selection of Rudy Paige and Morné Steyn at halfback appeared to suggest the Boks were set to revert to a more pragmatic approach as they went in search of a much-needed win.

    In the end, the move did turn out positive, with Paige delivering a solid showing, while Steyn provided the team with the composure and goal-kicking acumen that they have been missing from their flyhalf general this season.

    Although the Boks will now be forced to make a change at halfback due to the concussion suffered by Paige – with Faf de Klerk the likely candidate to come in at No 9 – Steyn is set to retain his place at pivot.

    After Saturday’s match in Pretoria, Walllabies coach Michael Cheika pointed out that the Boks had offered more with their kicking game with Steyn at flyhalf, but the fact remains that the home side only enjoyed 40% of territory, while putting boot to ball on no more than 25 occasions.

    Steyn did control the kicking game, though, making 11 of those 25 kicks, while he slotted two important drop goals at key moments in the contest.

    The stalwart is sure to look to produce a repeat performance this Saturday, particularly if potential inclement weather comes to pass, but the word from the All Blacks camp is that they’re not changing much in terms of their preparation.

    ‘We know there is this perception that Morné is a kicking flyhalf, and it does potentially flag a different style of play, but I’m not surprised they’ve gone back to him,’ Foster commented at New Zealand’s team hotel on Tuesday.

    ‘Morné is a quality player and he performed really well at Loftus, but overall, the Boks only kicked 25 times, and that’s not such a high number in Test rugby. Obviously if they do kick, it could open up opportunities to counter-attack, but then we have to be good enough to capitalise on that, so it’s like a game of chess.

    ‘We’re not just preparing for a kicking game, every time we come over here to South Africa, it’s generally a very fast and open game with lots of phase play,’ he added.

    With this Saturday’s encounter being played on the coast, the Boks also won’t have the altitude factor that favours a long kicking game, while they’ve spoken of a desire to be patient and purposeful with ball in hand.

    Last week, the Boks were labelled as a desperate side after a sequence of three successive defeats, but Foster refuted the suggestion that the Boks would be overly conservative on Saturday.

    ‘I think the Boks have always had that win-at-all-costs mentality, as do we. They have to find the best way to win, and last week Australia actually had most of the possession, and the Boks had to do lots of defensive work. That’s often the case against Australia because they are a team with a high ball-retention rate.

    'I don’t think the Boks necessarily went into their shell, but they just didn’t have a lot of ball, and so at times they had to play for territory and then put boot to ball, or Australia infringed. So we know what to expect on Saturday.’

    Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

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    Craig Lewis