• ‘Ref must rein in ABs’

    Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has called for referee Jérôme Garcès to monitor the All Blacks for offside play ahead of a game-shaping gainline battle on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Durban.

    Steve Hansen fronted the media at the All Blacks team hotel on Thursday afternoon. While the New Zealand coach attempted to steer conversation away from the Aaron Smith incident, the question was eventually asked.

    When it was, the All Blacks coach did his best to bat it away. Hansen tried to assure reporters that the All Blacks would cope without their tactical kingpin in what should be an arm-wrestle against the Boks on Saturday.

    Later, at a press conference held a couple of kilometres down the road, Coetzee did his best to hide his excitement. Coetzee told the media that TJ Perenara was as good as Smith.

    Privately, however, he must have celebrated when the world’s best scrumhalf was suspended for misconduct and ruled out of the game at Kings Park.

    The All Blacks will miss Smith’s game management and tactical-kicking accuracy. Despite Coetzee’s comments, TJ Perenara is a very different player. The selection of the Hurricanes No 9 will mean that flyhalf Beauden Barrett will have to take on more responsibility in terms of kicking for territory.

    The Boks will look to heap the pressure on Barrett this Saturday. Coetzee’s selections show how the Boks have invested absolutely everything into winning the forward and territorial battles.

    Coetzee has once again opted for six forwards on his bench. The Bok coach feels this will allow the Boks to maintain momentum at the set pieces and collisions well into the second half.

    Coetzee has also noted the All Blacks’ aggressive approach on defence in recent matches. While the Boks will need to meet that physicality head on, the officials may also have a role to play.

    ‘The gainline battle is going to be so important this Saturday,’ said the Bok coach. ‘It will be interesting to see how the referee handles the offsides this weekend. It will be crucial in terms of who wins that battle.

    ‘We also have a plan regarding the scrums, restarts and lineouts, and that is why we have gone with six forwards on the bench. It’s about winning those set pieces and then knocking over points [via the boot of Morné Steyn].

    ‘We have been getting a lot of reward with that 6-2 split on the bench,’ he added. Coetzee made this comment in spite of the fact that the Boks went with the same mix on the bench in Christchurch on 17 September. They conceded 26 points in the second half of that match.

    ‘We’ve got to play for 80 minutes. We know that they step up a gear in the second half, and we can’t afford soft moments,’ he said.

    Coetzee said that Damian de Allende will have an important role to play at the gainline this Saturday. A week ago, Coetzee favoured a smaller and less physically capable player in Juan de Jongh at No 12, and sent De Allende back to Currie Cup rugby.

    Now it would appear as if Coetzee wants a player of De Allende’s size and strength manning that crucial channel.

    ‘You guys were all talking up Damian de Allende as the best No 12 last year. And why was that? Because he dominated the gainline.

    ‘Your 12 has to do that. There may be a bit of rain early on Saturday, and so it may not be a game where the centre uses his footwork. It will be about running hard and straight into that All Blacks defence.’

    While the suspension of Smith will weaken the All Blacks’ tactical kicking game to some extent, the visitors will still be favourites to win at Kings Park. Coetzee said that the coaches and players haven’t paid much attention to what the odds are before the match, or what has be written by the media in the buildup.

    ‘They are the No 1 team in the world without a doubt,’ said Coetzee. ‘I’ve said it before, they have great continuity in terms of coaches and players. They have a great system.

    ‘But our motivation comes from within. It’s not in response to what is happening externally. We aren’t going out there to prove anybody who has written us off wrong. We have our own goals.’

    Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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    Jon Cardinelli