‘Boks have right personnel’

Springbok attack coach Johann van Graan says the new squad has the skills to switch between an expansive and pragmatic approach, reports JON CARDINELLI in Stellenbosch.

From the moment he was appointed on 12 April, Bok coach Allister Coetzee was clear about the team’s goals in 2016 and beyond. Transformation aside, Coetzee said there would be a push to evolve the game plan. He highlighted the value of South Africa’s traditional strengths, but also stressed the need to develop aspects of the attack.

Last Saturday, Coetzee unveiled his 31-man Test squad for the series against Ireland. The Bok coach said that the players in that squad were selected with a new and improved game plan in mind.

Van Graan, who served as forwards and attack coach under the previous head coach Heyneke Meyer, believes that Coetzee’s vision for the future has potential. The team has been in camp for just two days since congregating in Stellenbosch on Monday. And yet the coaches are already starting to notice a shift in mindset and attitude.

‘Allister had brought in a lot of exciting ideas,’ said Van Graan. ‘The big question is how you balance that with the amount of time we have to prepare before the series against Ireland, and how you balance those ideas with wanting to win the Test matches.

‘We want better decision-making. We want our transition from defence to attack to be better. I believe that Allister has picked the players who can play more expansively, and also players who can win Test matches. If you just look at the flyhalves he’s picked [Elton Jantjies, Pat Lambie and Garth April], they can all play the running and kicking game. Maybe it will rain next Saturday at Newlands … we just don’t know. We have to be prepared.’

On Tuesday, the backs were put through a series of kicking drills. Over the past 12 months or so, a few of the better teams in Super Rugby and even at Test level have used cross-kicks, grubbers and chip kicks to compromise an opposition defence. As Van Graan confirmed, the Boks will be looking to add these skills to their arsenal in the lead-up to the first meeting with Ireland.

‘You must adapt to what the opposition brings,’ he said. ‘They have a new defence coach in Andy Farrell. They use their rush defence very well, they come up hard off the line.

‘Once you’re behind the advantage line in that situation, it’s hard to attack [directly] but it does open up space in other areas of the field. I believe we have some exciting players who can exploit that space, and the players who have the ability to use the chip or grubber kick to get in behind the defence.’

The New Zealand teams have done this particularly well in the 2016 Super Rugby tournament. The All Blacks boast a reputation for kicking more than any other top Test side, and often succeed in regathering those attacking probes into space.

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli