The Springboks head into the World Cup knockouts having conceded more penalties than any other play-off qualifier, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Everybody knows that defence and goal-kicking wins World Cup tournaments. More specifically, it is the team with the more accurate defence and kicking game that stands the best chance of emerging at the top of the global pile.
From hereon in, pressure management becomes key. The Boks need to ensure that the majority of the game is played in opposition territory. The Boks need to pressure their opponents at the breakdown. They must force their opponents to make mistakes and concede penalties.
While the Boks were far more clinical in their recent display against the USA, the overall stats for the pool stage don’t make for encouraging reading. Indeed, the Boks have conceded 49 penalties and two yellow cards over four matches. No tier-one side has conceded more penalties at this tournament.
Inaccuracy as well as a failure to adapt to the referee’s interpretation of the laws has cost the Boks. They conceded more penalties than Japan in the Pool B opener in Brighton. They conceded more than Samoa in Birmingham, and more than Scotland in Newcastle. While they were the more disciplined of the two sides in the final match against the USA, they still conceded 11 penalties.
Unpack the stats further, and it becomes clear that the Boks have been particularly susceptible in their own half. South Africa have conceded nearly 60% of their penalties in their own territory over the course of the group stage.
It cost the Boks in the first match against Japan, with Ayumu Goromaru kicking five penalty goals. The Boks will need to be more disciplined when they front Wales this coming Saturday.
Of course, they will need to adapt to the management style and quirks of the match-day referee. It’s outrageous that World Rugby has delayed the announcement of the match officials for the upcoming quarter-finals. If the officials were appointed at the start of the week, both South Africa and Wales would have enjoyed an extended opportunity to prepare.
That said, both the Boks and Wales will receive the news at the same time. They will face the same challenge in adjusting their tactics over a short period. And on game day, there will be no excuse.
The Boks lost the 2011 World Cup quarter-final because they failed to adapt to the referee's interpretations at the breakdown. The class of 2015 cannot afford to make the same mistake.
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