Boks focus on ball carrying

Blindside flank Siya Kolisi says the Boks’ ball-carriers have to improve their body position when going into contact during this Saturday’s Test against Ireland, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.

One of the biggest surprises out of the Boks’ opening Test against Ireland this past weekend, was their inability to dominate the gainline battle, both on attack and defence.

Well known ball-carriers such as Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss battled to make a consistent impression with ball in hand, while the Boks’ defence was far too passive and enabled Ireland to gain the ascendancy at the collisions.

To make matters worse, not only did the Boks concede nine turnovers, but they were only able to secure one of their own, with the hosts failing to find any rhythm to their play.

Fronting up to the media at the team hotel on Monday, Kolisi acknowledged that they were far from satisfied with their ball-carrying returns at Newlands.

‘We weren’t at all happy with the way we executed the plans, our basics were very poor. We didn’t dominate with our carries, we went into contact too high and on defence we battled. It’s now got to be about less talking and more doing this Saturday.’

On a number of occasions, Ireland managed to hold up the Boks’ ball-carriers in the tackle, often disrupting the opportunity for the ball to be recycled quickly.

‘Going into this weekend’s Test we have to ensure that we carry low,’ Kolisi acknowledged. ‘Ireland tackle very low and we need to fight more in the tackle. They were working much harder than us when they were one man down, and we need to ensure this time around we work a lot harder and dominate the carries to enable the backline to have better opportunities to attack. We put ourselves under pressure by not finishing the carries with a strong leg drive and allowing the cleaners to get into a better position.’

The ball-carrying theme was one that Allister Coetzee also spoke extensively about on Monday, with the Bok coach suggesting that they had let themselves down as a result of their inaccuracy and poor execution at the tackle area.

‘Our contact skills in collisions were poor, the ball was getting stripped out of our hands far too easily. We were not aware of the collision and we have to look at our shoulder battle, which is our body height in contact. It was a focus area for us, but we just weren’t good enough. The times when we got it right, we made metres, built momentum and got in behind them. But then there were silly errors in the wide channels when we were too lateral or forced an unnecessary offload. We need to improve our composure and trust our systems more this weekend.’

It’s also clear that the Boks could look to take a leaf out of Ireland’s playbook in terms of the manner in which the visitors produced effective ball-carries and ensured their cleaners got in nice and low to generate quick ball.

‘It was difficult for us [to get turnovers] because if you look at the way the Irish carry the ball, it’s really low. It’s difficult to stop them on the gainline because they get that extra yard and their cleaners are coming forward. You can’t steal if the guy goes a metre past you. Then you’ll always find yourself offside or having to come in from the side. So it’s all about the shoulder battle, and our body height, which will be a big focus this week.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Craig Lewis