Boks hone defence

Allister Coetzee has reiterated the importance of work rate and line speed as the Boks continue to work on their defensive system under new coach Chean Roux, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Nelspruit.

Dogged defence was widely acknowledged as the chief contributing factor to the Springboks’ victory in the series-deciding Test against Ireland in June, with the hosts completing 151 of their 169 tackle attempts, while coming away with a hard-fought 19-13 win despite having just 32% of possession.

The Boks also came under immense pressure during the latter stage of the clash, with Ireland twice going through periods of attack that exceeded 15 phases, and yet they were repeatedly repelled by abrasive tacklers.

Despite that effort, though, it shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the Boks conceded some soft tries during the course of the three-match Test series, and at times found their defence exposed by an unheralded Irish attack.

The Springboks have also now bid farewell to renowned defensive guru Jacques Nienaber, who has headed off to Munster, with his role being taken over by Roux, who previously assisted the Boks as part of the mobi unit on refereeing and technical aspects.

There is no doubt that the Boks’ defence will be sternly put to the test during the Rugby Championship, and particularly when they come up against the high-paced attacks of Australia and New Zealand.

They also can’t afford to underestimate a much-improved Argentina side, with the Pumas’ 37-25 victory in Durban last year sure to still be fresh in their memories.

The Boks will kick off this season’s Rugby Championship campaign when they take on Argentina in Nelspruit this Saturday, and Coetzee said they had looked closely at the defensive system that they wanted to employ this season.

‘We’re looking at a system where we will have line speed, but it won’t be something completely new. We have generally had a passive system in South Africa, where we’ve had a drift defence with a bit of a square drift. But now you’ll see that teams have more line speed, and that’s important. But you need to have the correct numbers and know when to have the line speed, and make good decisions as to when you need to employ line speed or drift defence, depending on what we see in front of us.’

Coetzee said they knew that Argentina had the players to exploit any weaknesses in their defence, as was the case in Durban last year, and reiterated the importance of player work rate.

‘One non-negotiable is that from set pieces, our defence should be rock solid. In last year’s game, Argentina got the ascendancy from the set piece, with [Juan] Imhoff breaking through from a lineout. The big thing about any defensive system is work rate, you can’t just sit back and expect the system to tackle. You have to be there and make the hit. We will be challenged because Argentina play with width, they have passing forwards and a flyhalf [Nicolás Sánchez] who is very dangerous, he spots space quickly and has quick feet.’

Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis