Pat Lambie says that the drive to improve the kicking game should boost the Springbok attack on the four-game tour of Europe, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
The Boks have scored 15 tries in nine Tests this season. While they finished the Rugby Championship in third place, they were ranked last in the attacking categories of clean breaks, defenders beaten, metres run, passes, and carries. Ultimately, they scored fewer points than any other side in the competition.
The All Blacks dominated across these categories and finished the tournament with the most tries and points. What the New Zealanders don’t get enough credit for, however, is the accuracy of their kicking game. That contributes to their attacking success.
The All Blacks aren't afraid to use the boot as a weapon. Garryowens and box kicks are usually well chased, and when their wingers or fullbacks win the ball in the air, there is an opportunity for the All Blacks to run at a fractured opposition defence. Kick passes and shallow grubbers are equally well chased, and often result in a scoring opportunity.
In New Zealand, there is a positive attitude towards the kicking game. There is an understanding that often an accurate kick is needed to compromise the opposition defence.
This week, Allister Coetzee and his charges have spoken about embracing a similar attitude. While there has been pressure from some quarters in South Africa to play more running rugby on this tour, the Bok coach remains adamant that a strong kicking game and defence will underpin the team’s performances in Europe this November.
‘We need to kick to attack, and not to defend,’ Coetzee said. ‘We have to kick to get the ball back.’
On Friday, Pat Lambie, who will lead the Boks against the Barbarians at Wembley on Saturday, reiterated the point.
‘With all respect to the Barbarians, we are looking at this game as an opportunity to put a few systems and structures in place,’ he said. ‘We are looking ahead to that next game against England. It would be naive not to.
‘We don’t want to defend for the sake of defending, we want to get the ball back. Our kicking is another weapon, it must be used to create more attacking opportunities. There has been a shift in mindset.
‘We are going to take the space before we kick. There has been a big focus on our execution and our kick chase too. Hopefully that will create more chances in the opposition’s half.’
Of course, Coetzee and Lambie are not talking about revolutionary tactics. Indeed, many will wonder why there wasn’t a greater drive to address and refine these skills at the start of the season.
On Friday, Lambie said that the addition of Currie Cup-winning coach Franco Smith to the Bok management team has benefited the players. Smith has been brought in to help the Boks with their kicking.
‘Franco and some of the Cheetahs players are coming off a successful Currie Cup, and that confidence has rubbed off on the rest of the squad. Everybody has enjoyed working with Franco and he has brought in some fresh ideas with regard to the kicking plan.’
Whether the one-off match against the Barbarians will provide the Boks with an adequate opportunity to implement new systems and structures is another story.
While Rudy Paige and Lambie are likely to start against England next week, there may be a number of other changes as 12 more players link up with the squad from their respective overseas clubs. There may be another period of adjustment in the lead-up to the tour-defining Test at Twickenham.
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