Meyer: ‘Kicking will be difference’

Heyneke Meyer has reiterated the need to tactically outplay the All Blacks at Ellis Park this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

On Wednesday, the Springbok coach said that he was pleased with South Africa’s progress as far as attack is concerned. In 2013, the Boks averaged more tries per match than any other Test side, including the trend-setting All Blacks. In 2014, the Boks have scored some outstanding tries, as was evident in the recent win against the Wallabies.

And yet, they remain the No 2 ranked side in the world. Meyer said this is because the Boks have not improved sufficiently in the tactical-kicking department. He pointed to the All Blacks’ win record over the past three years, and is adamant that the Kiwis’ success is down to their accuracy and intelligence more than anything else.

‘I have no doubt that whoever wins the tactical-kicking battle this Saturday will win the match,’ Meyer said. ‘You can’t expect to beat the All Blacks unless you handle their kicking game.

‘History shows that when you are the best tactical-kicking side in the world, you are the best team in the world. Look at when the Boks beat the All Blacks in 2008 and 2009, they had the best kicking unit on the planet. The All Blacks took note of that, and have made some remarkable improvements in that area since.

‘Right now, they are difficult to beat because they have it all,’ the Bok coach added. ‘They’re big, they have the skills, but what really sets them apart is how they play in the air and how they kick.

‘Often there’s a perception in South Africa that we kick too much. What people don’t understand is that there’s a difference between intelligent kicking and aimless kicking. If you look at the matches we’ve lost over the past few years, it is the matches in which we haven’t kicked accurately. We have to improve in that department before the World Cup next year.’

The Boks go into this match without their best tactical kickers. Fourie du Preez has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, while Ruan Pienaar won’t be available until November. Flyhalf Morné Steyn has not been included in the match 23 despite his status as the best tactical kicker in the country.

Meyer has backed the 20-year Handré Pollard to start at No 10 in five of the past six Tests. Pollard will start at flyhalf once again this Saturday, while Pat Lambie will cover 10 from the bench. asked the Bok coach if Pollard has improved in the tactical-kicking department over the course of the Rugby Championship. Meyer’s answer said a lot about the team’s mindset. While they are desperate to beat the All Blacks this weekend, they are also looking to strengthen their depth ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

‘Handré has impressed me, but his tactical kicking is still nowhere where it should be,’ he said. ‘But I really believe that he is a special player, and that he has the potential to become a great tactical kicker.

‘[Scrumhalf] Francois Hougaard has improved in that department, as has [fullback] Willie le Roux. I’m sure the All Blacks will target Willie this week with the high ball, but it’s something Willie and the other guys must deal with if we are going to succeed.’

Photo: Chris Symes/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli