Boks aim to ‘lay down marker’

Captain Adriaan Strauss says the Springboks are determined to make a statement of intent as they embark on a new era under Allister Coetzee, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Strauss will lead the Boks out against Ireland at Newlands on Saturday, with the hosts highly favoured to come away with a winning result. However, the encounter will also serve to provide some insights into the brand of rugby Coetzee will be driving the Boks to play.

There has been a fair bit of talk about playing with speed of movement and attacking pace, but Coetzee has also moved to insist that the Boks will not forsake their traditional strengths, and will first look to ‘build an innings’.

At Friday’s captain’s press conference, Strauss explained the aims that the Boks had set for their opening encounter of the three-Test series.

‘It’s the start of a new journey, so we definitely want to set down a marker and standard for ourselves. Of course the result will always be important, but it’s more about the way we want to play and the way forward.

‘It’s all about decision-making, at this level that’s especially important. We need to give players options on the field, but there is also a structure in place for that. We first have to make the right decisions at the right time, and play into space. We want to attack, but it needs to be based on good decision-making, while identifying where that space is.’

Strauss will lead out a team that boasts 474 Test caps in the starting lineup, and he said the experience around him ensured he hadn't been burdened by the additional responsibility of captaincy.

‘I’m feeling quite calm. I’ll prepare as if it were any other Test, but I think it’s going to be another tough one. With the amount of leaders in the squad, it’s helped quite a lot, I haven’t had to do that much differently. It’s just been about ensuring everyone is on the same page with all the calls and what we want to do, and I think we’re ready now.’

Alongside leaders such as Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, Pat Lambie has been handed the vice-captaincy, and Strauss said he was confident that the 50-cap Springbok flyhalf would marshall the backline with maturity.

‘A guy like Pat was born with a mature head on his shoulders. He is a very capable leader and I think he will make good decisions and provide direction for the backs. Hopefully, as the forwards, we can provide quality ball for them.’

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis