Francois Louw believes that poor execution of the game plan rather than the plan itself limited the Springboks’ attack against Wales, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
The Boks beat Wales 23-19 on Saturday to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals. The result has prompted a celebration across the South African rugby community. The quality of performance, however, has received fewer plaudits.
On Sunday, Louw, the Boks’ openside flank and one of the team’s senior players, responded to the criticism of the existing game plan. Louw maintains that this strategy, when correctly executed, can yield the desired results, even against the All Blacks.
‘We’ve been speaking about composure for the past few weeks, and the guys certainly showed some composure against Wales,’ Louw said. ‘It’s all about the small margins in knockout rugby. I felt that we maintained our discipline for the most part and stuck to the plan. We chipped away at their defence, we put them under pressure until they infringed.
‘We need to play towards our strengths. Perhaps we went away from that in a few matches played earlier this year. But there’s been a move back to our strengths more recently, and things are starting to come together.
‘I’m not saying that the performance against Wales was perfect. We will need to make a few adjustments and improvements in the lead-up to a battle with the All Blacks.’
Specifically, the Boks will need to lift their intensity and accuracy at the point of contact. The All Blacks are world leaders in this area. The New Zealanders would have noted how Wales managed to stifle the Boks for long periods in the quarter-final.
‘We were a bit slow getting to the attacking breakdowns,’ said Louw. ‘We talk about pre-empting what will happen at the tackle rather than reacting. Wales were effective in that area. They slowed down a lot of our ball, and it was interesting to see how they changed their tackle technique. We were expecting the chop tackle, but instead they looked to hold us up.
‘The lesson to take from that is you have to be able to adapt to the situation. They turned us over a few times, and you can’t really afford that in a big play-off game. It can mean the difference between winning and losing.
‘What it comes down to is awareness and urgency,’ he added. ‘I don’t think it’s a game plan issue or a technique issue. We’ve simply got to ensure that we blast the opposition away [at the ruck].
'We can’t allow the All Blacks to get their hands on the ball or for the breakdown to develop. What you want is a good cleanout that will allow your scrumhalf good clean ball. That will be an area to look at over the next few days.’
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