Bok backs aim to soar

Assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher says the Boks need to improve their kick, chase and aerial game in the lead-up to the World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.

Last year, Heyneke Meyer said the Boks still trailed the All Blacks in the area of tactical kicking. Meyer felt the Boks would not win the 2015 World Cup unless they improved in this department.

The Boks struggled in three of the four Tests played in Europe last November. Against Ireland and Wales, they lost the tactical-kicking battle, the contest in the air, as well as the war on the ground. Unsurprisingly, they finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard in both of those matches.

More than seven months have passed, but the Boks have not forgotten about the result or manner of defeat at the Millennium Stadium. The recent Vodacom Super Rugby final between the Hurricanes and Highlanders would also have served as a timely reminder that New Zealand lead the way in terms of tactical kicking, and that a good kick-chase is essential to success at the highest level.

On Monday, asked Loubscher where the Boks need to improve the most before the 2015 World Cup. The backline coach confirmed that the players’ aerial skills require sharpening.

‘We need to step up in that department,’ he said. ‘If you look at that Wales game, they kicked on us and we made all the mistakes. We conceded too many turnovers.

‘We’ve addressed that [in the Bok preparation camps over the past few weeks]. Hopefully we can improve and it can be a real positive for us in 2015.’

The Highlanders as well as the All Blacks are known for their attacking play, and yet it's interesting to note how those teams create attacking opportunities. Both sides use the boot liberally, and both are extremely effective in terms of regaining the ball in the air, and then running at a fractured defence.

Loubscher conceded that the pressure will be on the Boks to be accurate from the outset when they take on the World XV at Newlands on Saturday. What won’t help the Boks' tactical-kicking cause is the absence of key players such as scrumhalf Fourie du Preez. Another two halfbacks in Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie haven’t played competitive rugby for a lengthy period, and may be rusty.

Loubscher said the starting combination needs to settle quickly, and adapt to the conditions. There's a 40% chance of rain in Cape Town on Saturday evening.

‘We hope the weather will be good, and that we keep the ball in hand and score tries. That comes down to players identifying opportunities. They need to be on the same page, and make those chances count. Decision-making is going to be so important.’

Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP Photo

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Jon Cardinelli