Boks to put boot in

The Springboks will place an emphasis on their exit play in the buildup to Saturday’s third Test against Ireland. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Port Elizabeth.

One of the key features of Ireland’s impressive first-half performance against the Boks at Ellis Park was their effective use of a carefully calculated kicking plan that saw them put boot to ball on 20 occasions in the first half.

A number of those kicks were well weighted up-and-unders, which particularly placed Lwazi Mvovo under pressure on the left wing, while the Boks also battled to exit their half effectively in the face of Ireland's endeavours to keep them pinned deep in their territory.

With the Boks also heading into the clash with only left-footed kickers in Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies and Willie le Roux, it was clear that the balance of their exit options was compromised.

The right-footed kicking option Ruan Combrinck provides was one of the reasons he earned inclusion on the bench last weekend, and it’s likely that the talented winger will start this Saturday’s Test after an outstanding second-half cameo in Johannesburg.

Although it was Combrinck’s direct running that caught the eye at Ellis Park, it’s his big right boot and long-range goal-kicking that adds to his all-round ability, while he can also cover at fullback.

Chatting to the media at the team’s hotel in Port Elizabeth on Monday, Bok coach Allister Coetzee admitted their kicking game needed to be far more clinical in Saturday’s decisive third Test.

‘There are a few things to iron out in terms of certain details, and one of them is our exit plays. There were a few occasions when we received a kick and then made a mistake or experienced a system error where we were unable to clear as we would have liked.

‘We need to be prepared for another battle of attrition on Saturday, particularly in the first half. So it’s important for us to have an approach where we have the patience and faith in our plan and kicking game. The Irish have been able to score tries through the use of good kicks, and they will have noted the rewards they got there, so we know our aerial skills also have to improve and that we need to make good decisions when receiving and making kicks.’

In the lead-up to last Saturday’s Test, Coetzee called for Elton Jantjies to employ effective game management as the flyhalf general, and although he battled to stamp his authority on the opening half, it was clear that he was able to do so once the Boks provided quick, clean front-foot ball later on in the game.

Coetzee said he had no doubt that Jantjies boasted the all-round attributes to enforce a well-balanced game.

‘I think sometimes there is this perception that Elton is just an attacking flyhalf, but a No 10 needs to have the ability to find that balance to their game and to take control of proceedings. Elton certainly has an educated boot and is a good decision-maker. There was the odd occasion last Saturday where he didn’t always make the most educated kick, but I know he’s got the ability to find that balance to give us direction.’

The Bok coach also insisted that he wasn’t concerned by Jantjies’s shaky goal-kicking at Ellis Park, which saw him miss two penalties and a conversion. The Lions pivot only has a 70% goal-kicking success rate so far this Super Rugby season.

‘It [goal-kicking] is an individual skill and something he’ll work on. I know Elton has the ability to hit the zone, and then we’ve got Ruan as an extra goal-kicker and the long-range option. And if all else fails, we’ve got Morné [Steyn], so there’s no concerns there.’

Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis