Ruan’s boot wins the day

Allister Coetzee says Ruan Combrinck's selection for Saturday’s third Test against Ireland is a tactical one primarily to make use of his right-footed kicking game, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.

Combrinck will start on the right wing in the only unenforced change that Coetzee has made to the Springboks' starting lineup, with JP Pietersen moving to the left wing and Lwazi Mvovo dropping to the bench.

Mvovo endured a difficult day out at Ellis Park last Saturday, with Ireland targeting that area of the field with a number of contestable kicks, while the Boks also battled with their exit plays as a result of only having left-footed kickers in Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies and Willie le Roux.

At Thursday’s team announcement in Port Elizabeth, Coetzee explained that Combrinck’s elevation to the starting lineup was not just reward for his second-half cameo last weekend, but primarily to provide additional kicking options both in open play and at posts.

‘It’s a tactical change that we think will benefit the team. Ruan provides us with another right-footed kicker that we don’t have with Elton, Faf and Willie at the back. Ireland have been kicking down that left wing touchline, and so we need that right-foot kicking option. Ruan also has that ability to kick for goal from 50m out, which is really valuable. On top of that he showed great form last weekend.’

With taller winger JP Pietersen moving to the left wing, and also boasting a right-footed preference, it will be interesting to see if Ireland persist with a similar kicking strategy that they enforced last weekend.

This week the Boks have focused on sharpening up their aerial skills, and while Coetzee said he had no concerns about Pietersen’s safety under the high ball, he admitted that he had instructed the big winger to up his work rate.

‘JP has been solid when receiving kicks. The last few kick-offs in the second half last weekend went to him, and he fielded both nicely and secured the ball. I’m happy with his aerial skills, but I think he can also do more, and I’ve had that discussion with him to get more involved. He can go looking for a bit more work, and with wingers like him and Ruan, there’s no excuse for them not to be regularly involved, and they are certainly players who can be destructive and provide real momentum when that is the case. That’s what we want to see from them.’

Although Ireland have employed a well-orchestrated kicking game throughout the series so far, Coetzee suggested he expected them to keep the ball in hand a bit more this Saturday.

‘I think Ireland may look at regaining possession rather than just kicking it deep, and they may go nice and short from the kick-offs and look to contest. Territory is always the name of the game, and you have to be aware of that and ensure we cover the field nicely when receiving kicks, but they may look to have a bit more of a go compared to previous Tests.

‘In a deciding Test like this one, you have to chuck in the kitchen sink and look to score tries,’ he continued. ‘We scored four tries in the second half last weekend and showed that you can win a Test by scoring tries, not just by kicking penalties. Of course it’s important to keep that scoreboard ticking over and often in a Test it’s about grinding out a result in the trenches, but there are other ways to win, and sometimes you have to look to score tries.’

Springbok team for third Test

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis