The Springboks need to produce a more accurate defensive performance against Argentina on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Much has been made about the Bok attack over the past four weeks. The new 10-12-13 combination of Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende, and Jesse Kriel impressed in matches against the World XV, Wallabies and All Blacks. Word from the Bok camp is the South African backline hopes to be even sharper when it fronts Argentina at Kings Park this Saturday.
Some of the Boks' attacking stats after two rounds of the Rugby Championship make for encouraging reading. And yet, for all their intent and innovation, the Boks scored just two tries against the Wallabies, and two against the All Blacks. A game plan weighted towards attack also resulted in two defeats.
The Boks have failed to strike the right balance between running and kicking in recent matches. They've also lacked consistency in certain areas of defence.
One can put this down to the lack of experience in certain combinations, as well as the fact they've been without a few senior players. Nevertheless, it's something that needs to be addressed in the two Tests against Argentina, the Boks' last two matches before the 2015 World Cup.
The South Africans have made good strides at the defensive breakdowns and, according to the Vodacom Rugby Stats App, are currently the best in the tournament for turnovers won (19). However, the Boks rank second for missed tackles (45). Only Argentina have missed more.
The Boks' 10-12-13 combination has proved particularly susceptible. De Allende, Pollard, and Kriel rank one, three, and four on the missed-tackle list. Together, they've missed 21 tackles. That's 47% of the team's total misses.
Kriel is currently missing one in every three tackles. Just as concerning is De Allende's defensive form.
The Stormers centre was one of the stars of the recent Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, at least as far as attack was concerned. On defence, he ranked one (together with the Cheetahs' Joe Pietersen) for missed tackles over the course of the season (30).
De Allende has got through a lot of defensive work in this year's Rugby Championship. While he's missed eight tackles, he has completed 25. And yet, what these numbers indicate is that opposition teams are starting to target this channel.
Argentina won't pressure the Boks the way the Wallabies and All Blacks did in recent weeks. That said, this may be an opportunity for De Allende and company to make a statement and build some confidence.
Frans Steyn and Jaque Fourie are currently unavailable, and it seems likely De Allende will partner Jean de Villiers in midfield at some stage over the next two weeks. The return of De Villiers, a veteran of 106 Tests, will aid the Boks in terms of their defensive organisation, and ultimately their accuracy.
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