Flyhalf Morné Steyn looked sharper than most of his teammates at the Springboks’ training session on Monday afternoon. JON CARDINELLI reports from Johannesburg.
The first field session that follows a disappointing defeat can be a brutal affair. Indeed, who could forget the koppestamp session that was staged after the Boks’ 29-15 loss in Dublin in 2014.
On that occasion, the Boks put absolutely everything into the exercise. While it left a few of the players battered and bruised, it set the tone for the rest of the week. The following Saturday, the Boks made a physical statement against England at Twickenham, and won the match.
Allister Coetzee and indeed every Bok fan will be hoping for a similar backlash at Ellis Park this Saturday. The Boks lost 26-20 to Ireland at Newlands last Saturday. They were outplayed physically and tactically, and will have much to prove in the second Test.
However, they have not begun the week especially well. Those who were at the training session at St Stithians College on Monday afternoon will vouch for the fact that the Boks still seem be lacking the necessary grunt and guile.
Coetzee has made it clear that the quality of the ball-carrying needs to improve after a poor performance at the gainline at Newlands. On Monday, the Boks were put through a series of ball-carrying drills.
While there was more intent from the Boks, they weren’t under any defensive pressure. The young players recruited from the University of Johannesburg to hold tackle bags did their best. However, it would be a stretch to suggest they emulated the rabidity and timing of Ireland's defence.
Duane Vermeulen (knee) and Lood de Jager (calf) missed the session as they were recovering from minor injuries. Both are expected to train on Tuesday and be available for selection this weekend.
If Vermeulen and De Jager fail to pass fit, then Warren Whiteley will start at No 8 and Pieter-Steph du Toit at 5. Whiteley and Du Toit trained in these positions on Monday.
Handling was a problem for the Boks this past Saturday. It was also a problem at the training session on Monday.
The backs struggled to gel during the session. On several occasions, a pass found the turf instead of a supporting player. And on many occasions, the offending player cried out in frustration.
One player who seemed to be on form during the session was ‘new recruit' Morné Steyn. The flyhalf has been brought into the squad to provide cover for Elton Jantjies, and will be named in the match 23 on Thursday.
The 60-Test veteran, who currently plays his club rugby for Stade Français, had no trouble settling into the new structures. His cross-kicking was of a particularly high standard.
Coetzee has asked for a better tactical-kicking performance this Saturday. It bodes well that Steyn appears to be in good kicking form ahead of a crucial game against Ireland.
While Jantjies is set to start at Ellis Park, Steyn may be called upon to make a telling contribution later in the contest.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images