‘Faf saved two certain tries’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks' win over Ireland in Port Elizabeth.

'Anytime you lose with the Springboks, you are under pressure. Bok supporters, quite rightly, want a winning team, especially at home. As a Springbok coach it was the worst possible start for Allister Coetzee [to lose to Ireland]. Obviously the team didn’t perform well at Newlands and there were question marks about them in the second Test, but the team stuck it out and came through well in the third Test. Credit must go to Ireland for making this Test series a fantastically competitive one.

'It was a very close Test match, but let’s not beat around the bush, we didn’t dominate Ireland today. Thank goodness our kicking was so accurate. I think Elton Jantjies missed just one kick and Ruan Combrinck’s kick from 50m out was very important. We’ll take the win, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made before we can start competing properly against New Zealand. Australia are in a worse position than us at the moment, but we can’t hope that they are just going to fall over in the Rugby Championship.

'In the first Test, our scrums were very loose and we were dominated. In the second Test the scrums were 50/50, but in this game we won two scrum penalties in the first and the second half with two different front rows. Steven Kitshoff had a good 30 minutes on the field. He made a number of tackles and scrummed well. Frans Malherbe was better than he was in both first Tests. It was just a question of the tight five understanding each other better and getting cohesion in their scrummaging.

'With respect to the people who chose JP Pietersen as Man of the Match, I thought Faf de Klerk was absolutely superb today. He saved two certain tries and we can never call him small again because he managed to jump six foot to intercept a pass. Had that ball gone to the Irish player he would have certainly scored. And then right at the end of the game, Faf made the most ferocious tackle on an Irish player by coming off his man and hitting him back to allow us to turn the ball over and finish the game. He had one poor kick, where the forwards were caught offside, and that was about the only mistake he made in the game.

'While the whole team defended really well at the end, our defence is still reasonably passive. It is well organised, but not aggressive enough. We need to get off the line faster to put pressure on the ball-carriers quicker and we should attack the ball in the tackle – rather like Ireland do – to make sure they get slower ball. England were very successful against Australia with that tactic and New Zealand do it a lot as well.

'On attack we were a little bit frenetic. It’s a young side with a lot of enthusiasm, but they were quite anxious and didn’t show patience. A confident team that understands each other will know when to pass and when not to pass. They don’t push passes. You could see the Irish side was well organised and it’ll take time for us to become as well drilled and organised. But attack is the one area where we should be able to have the patience to take the ball through the phases to put the opposition under pressure and allow our big ball-carriers to start winning penalties for us.

'We saw a great cross-kick, or kick-pass, in this game that was identified by Elton Jantjies and JP Pietersen. Now, if you watch the Highlanders and All Blacks play, a number of their tries come from offensive chips and grubber kicks and that comes from good communication. The ability of our outside backs to communicate with our halfbacks is very important. JP’s try reminded me of a try Courtnall Skosan scored when Jantjies did the same thing. So, I don’t doubt Jantjies’s ability to kick it, what we need is the Bok outside backs to identify the space and tell him when to kick it. It’s difficult for Elton to see space when he has to watch the ball and the rush defenders. Lionel Mapoe and Damian de Allende are inexperienced and need a little bit more time and confidence to realise they are allowed to talk and communicate positively on the field. Stop talking for the sake of it, and do it to pass on information to the key player in your team, your No 10.

'What we must understand is that New Zealand are appreciably better than any other team in the world, including England. They are way ahead in the rankings, but between the second placed team and the sixth or seventh placed team, there’s very little difference. We must concentrate on becoming second best. And only when we are second, can we start challenging to be the best.'

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Nick Mallett