Willie le Roux has to produce a more convincing kicking and aerial performance for the Springboks to have any chance of beating the All Blacks this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
Heyneke Meyer will announce his match-day squad for the semi-final later on Wednesday. The Boks are still sweating on the fitness of lock Lood de Jager (foot) and Bismarck du Plessis (hand). The good news is that Victor Matfield has resumed training and is likely to play some part in the do-or-die match at Twickenham on Saturday.
Meyer is likely to persist with Le Roux at No 15. It’s a big call considering the fullback’s inconsistent performances at this World Cup.
Le Roux has mixed the sublime with the ridiculous over the past four games. While he has made some positive contributions with ball in hand, his tactical kicking has been poor.
Last Saturday, Wales targeted the Bok fullback with the high ball. The tactic yielded five points.
Le Roux completely misjudged a garryowen by Dan Biggar in the first half. Wales regathered the bouncing ball to score a try. It was not the first time Le Roux failed to field the high ball at this tournament.
Earlier this week, Bok defence coach John McFarland noted how much sharper the All Blacks are looking since Dan Carter has been reinstated at No 10. New Zealand have long boasted the best tactical-kicking game on the planet. Their option-taking is excellent, their execution outstanding, and their contesting in the air second to none.
The Boks have battled in these departments over the past 12 months. The return of Fourie du Preez has been a boost, and wingers like Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen have enhanced the kicking game to some degree with some excellent chasing and contesting. Le Roux, unfortunately, has been less consistent.
Bok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher has admitted that the standard of South Africa’s kicking and contesting is not where it should be. Loubscher said the team would have to address these shortcomings in the buildup to the game against the All Blacks.
New Zealand will certainly look to expose the Boks’ weaknesses. In Aaron Smith and Carter, they have two brilliant tactical kickers. Ben Smith is one of the best when it comes to contesting for possession in the air.
Le Roux, and indeed the Bok back-three as a unit, will have much to prove under the high ball this Saturday.
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