The Springboks have the lineout personnel to stifle and disrupt the Ireland forwards at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Lood de Jager has come a long way as a No 5 lock. Last year, De Jager was one of the standouts for the Boks at the World Cup. The powerfully built second rower made an impression with ball in hand, and showed a marked improvement at the set pieces.
This season, De Jager has been overshadowed by the Stormers pair of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit. While De Jager and Franco Mostert have made an impact for their respective franchises, Etzebeth and Du Toit have been in another class with regard to contesting at the lineout. After 14 rounds of Super Rugby, the Stormers locks had made the joint-most steals (10).
This bodes well for a Bok side that hopes to score more tries in 2016. A strong contesting player has the ability to win turnovers for his team at this set piece. From there, the counter-attacking team has an opportunity to run at an unprepared defence.
‘All the locks involved in this squad have been brilliant with regard to contesting at the lineout [in the recent Super Rugby tournament],’ said Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan, who will be focusing on the team’s attack from hereon in.
‘A guy like Siya Kolisi has improved tremendously at franchise level in terms of his jumping. We all know what [loose forwards] Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw can do. It also helps that there is some continuity from the previous era in terms of a system.
‘Guys like Eben, Lood, Pieter-Steph, Franco … once they get into the air, they’re looking to contest on their terms. We’re going to try and do that on Saturday. Hopefully it will force the Irish to play outside their structures.’
Much has been made of the Boks’ last Test against Ireland back in November 2014. The Boks went down 29-15, and a star-studded South African lineout was outplayed by a smarter Irish contingent that backed away from the mauls.
In the coming series, however, the battle at the set pieces will be very different. Lineout legends such as Victor Matfield and Paul O’Connell have since retired from international rugby. The laws that govern this area of the game are slightly different.
Van Graan, who was part of the previous Bok coaching team, said the players must be ready for anything the Irish throw at them this Saturday.
‘Ireland did that brilliantly in the last match in Dublin. There are new laws in the maul now, though. So if the defence pulls away, you can go.
'That part of the game is different, so I don’t know if they will come with those tactics again. We have prepared for that, though. It’s always about adapting on the day.’
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