The Springboks need to strike the right balance between running and kicking if they are to unlock a formidable Wales defence, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
On Monday, Bok attack and forwards coach Johann van Graan spoke of the positives that have been taken from a largely lacklustre performance against Italy. What was more interesting to hear, however, was Van Graan’s take on the recent battle between Wales and the All Blacks.
The Boks have arrived in Cardiff, and preparations for Saturday’s Test at the Millennium Stadium are at an advanced stage. While the Boks have a good idea of where Wales are strong and weak, they would be foolish not to take Wales’ last performance into account. The Welsh were dominant against New Zealand in the first 60-odd minutes, but were overtaken by the Kiwis in the latter stages.
‘Credit to the Wales defence, they really pressured New Zealand. It was only when New Zealand started to kick behind Wales that they started to cause problems, and then generate momentum,’ said Van Graan.
The Boks kicked well in the game against England at Twickenham. A dominant showing at the collisions and breakdowns provided halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie with the necessary space to operate. Reinach and Lambie then made that platform count, kicking the Boks into good field positions and unleashing the backline when there was an opportunity to run.
South Africa were less successful in Dublin and Padova, both in terms of setting a forward platform and utilising their kicking strengths to good effect. Last Saturday, they battled to generate quick ball at the rucks, and the backs were largely predictable with ball in hand.
Van Graan said on Monday he expects a sharper showing against Wales. The lineout needs to improve, as does the decision-making on attack.
‘Wales stop the maul well and are statistically the best defensive side in the world. They boast the highest tackle count and in the last game against us in Nelspruit, were really efficient in cutting us down by the legs.
‘In terms of the lineout, we made mistakes at crucial moments against Italy. We were aiming for that golden ball at the back of the lineout, because that’s where you want to maul from.
'Credit to Italy and Parisse in particular. They read it well and were able to disrupt us. There have been a lot of things happening at the maul these past few weeks [in terms of the opposition tactics at this set piece], so that’s why we tried something new against Italy.’
Van Graan also believes the Boks did well to adapt to the referee and the Italy rush defence in the second half of last Saturday’s game. They will need to show the same patience and composure from the get-go against Wales this week.
‘In the second half, we were a different side when we got quick ball. Most of the teams up here use the rush defence, and with that, there are going to be opportunities for the attacking side. We just had to be patient, and we saw that in the buildup to Bryan Habana’s try.'
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images