Time for Boks to fire
Sport24 columnist Alan Solomons (File)
I thought the Springboks’ first half performance against Ireland was exceptionally poor. For some reason or other the side just didn’t look up for the game and weren’t in the encounter at all in the first stanza.
The Boks certainly won’t be happy with that performance, but will be pleased that despite such a poor first half, they were able to pull together and produce a win. The Boks were able to score 13-unanswered second half points as they outmuscled the Irish pack and dominated territory. Once the Boks got going, the Irish couldn’t handle them. They just had too much power in their forward pack.
Coach Heyneke Meyer would no doubt have had stern words with the players at half-time, but I think the players themselves realised that they failed to fire a shot in the first half, against an Irish side, that is really average to be honest.
The Boks scored the only try of the match, but in truth they didn’t look dangerous on attack. If you compare the All Blacks’ game against Scotland, they looked lethal every time they had the ball.
The Boks didn’t present any real challenges to the defence - owing to the particular game plan they employed. The Irish were even worse on attack, had no cutting edge and never looked like scoring a try.
I’m pleased to hear Heyneke is set to stick with Pat Lambie at flyhalf. It’s very difficult to pass judgment after one performance. He needs to be given an extended run in that position. I think Lambie is best when he is in a situation where the team is prepared to use the ball. I would say that the current game strategy the Boks employ is somewhat restrictive, particularly for a player like Lambie.
That said, I hear Juan de Jongh is set to start in the midfield against Scotland this Saturday, which is a step in the right direction. He is a fantastic player and would add a real cutting edge to the Bok backline, which they have been missing. I think he is a good enough footballer to play under all conditions.
I would pair him in the midfield with Jean de Villiers because they know each other’s game well having played together at provincial level.
I think Jaco Taute is an excellent player, but feel his best position is fullback. This game presents a great opportunity to have a look at Taute in the No 15 jersey.
Ruan Pienaar had a good game against Ireland and showed he has the ability to dictate a game and is composed under pressure. But I believe he doesn’t really present any kind of threat around the fringes, and therefore doesn’t take the heat off his outside backs. He is all about controlling the game with his boot, which takes does take some pressure of Lambie, but he’s not the kind of scrumhalf who is going to set a backline alight.
Francois Hougaard is a good enough footballer to do a more than decent job on the wing, but I would love to see him given the opportunity to play at scrumhalf, which is his best position.
I would love to see a backline, even on this tour, of Hougaard, Lambie, De Villiers, De Jongh, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen and Taute. I think that backline would certainly do some damage.
While New Zealand weren’t at their best on the weekend, their skill level, decision making and tempo at which they play the game is an example to any side. They showed that if you play a superior style of rugby, the northern hemisphere sides, particularly the weaker ones, will battle to cope.
Despite conceding six tries, I don’t think the Scots were that bad. Dan Carter controlled the game superbly and I don’t believe we will see a flyhalf of his calibre again in our lifetime.
While I don’t think Scotland can be written off, having beaten the Boks in 2010, in truth Scotland are a very limited side and aren’t going to challenge for the 2013 Six Nations. At the moment, Six Nations rugby is not fantastically strong. France are currently the pick of the northern hemisphere sides.
It’s key that the Boks arrive at the game in the right mental frame and play from the onset. They can’t wait until half time and then start playing.
The Boks favour a direct style of rugby which is dependent upon physicality, getting over the gain line and then generating momentum.
The Scots are a physical side and get stuck in upfront. That’s how they have beaten the Boks in the past. But if the Boks come into the game with the right attitude, the host won’t be able to match them. Yes, the Scots scored a few good tries against the All Blacks, but they are certainly not the last of the great attacking sides.
The Boks will beat Scotland as I feel they will have too much firepower for them. Having come off the experience of not getting a good start, I don’t think the Boks will again fall into that trap. Scotland will live up to their nickname and be brave, but I predict there will be a 10-15 point difference in the Boks’ favour.Alan Solomons was assistant coach to Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.
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