Aiming for accuracy
Sport24 columnist JP Pietersen (File)
A look at the key match-ups between the Wallabies and the Springboks ahead of their Rugby Championship clash.
After being in great form during Super Rugby, gaining confidence playing week-in and week-out, getting injured just before the start to the Rugby Championship has brought mixed feelings. But because we play so much rugby in the year, in a way it’s nice to have a break.
Turning to the Springboks, I find it difficult to describe their opening two performances in the competition. We definitely outplayed Argentina in the opening Test at Newlands, but failed to take a number of point scoring opportunities. In the second Test in Mendoza, we just didn’t play well and weren’t accurate in our execution.
The Pumas’ intention was clearly to slow our ball down and frustrate us and to some degree, they played negative rugby. However, the bottom line is that we had opportunities in the game but failed to capitalise.
I don’t think it’s fair to say the Boks aren’t creative on attack. We have a solid game plan in place; it was just that we didn’t execute it last week.
It’s not easy for a backline to attack off slow ball. If our forwards don’t gather momentum, then it becomes tough for the backline to deal with ball on the back foot. It will result in you running out of space and sideways. If the forwards generate good momentum for the backs, it gives them options and space to create on the outside. In the last couple of games, our backline has been lacking that supply and we have been forced to kick ball away.
In training this week, I think the coaches would have worked with the guys on improving their decision-making, with a strong focus on executing when opportunities arise.
Put simply, we have to be accurate in everything we do. For example if we kick from nine, the chasers must be quick, there must be a good defence line and we must ensure we make our first time tackles. At ruck time, we have to be accurate and not show any daylight between ball carrier and cleaner. Our workrate, decision making and accuracy are key areas.
We have to be clinical against Australia as they are a side that can punish you from turnovers. While Argentina play a tactical game and enjoy slow ball, with an intention to choke and frustrate, Australia in contrast play a fast-paced game.
They want quick rucks, to put runners off nine and they boast a lethal backline that can attack from anywhere. They are blessed with skilful players’ outwide and I think that is the major challenge we are going to face. They are also going to try to outsmart us with chip and cross kicks. We have to be aware of all the tactics they will use.
We have to play for territory and try to dominate upfront as Australia aren’t the strongest pack in the Rugby Championship. We saw how clinical New Zealand were against them with their pick-and-go's and drives from lineouts.
We have to use our pack as our main weapon and it’s vital that we dominate upfront. We didn’t do so last week, but I have a feeling the pack will step up this Saturday.
We can definately take lessons from how the All Blacks have beaten the Wallabies. They exposed their weaknesses. One thing that stood out for me was how clinical the All Blacks were. They got great go-forward ball, which allowed Dan Carter to run over the advantage line. He then had options to play to both his inside and outside.
I’ve been following a few of the boys on Twitter this week and it sounds like they are excited for the game. They are keen to turn things around, because the performance last week wasn’t up to our Springbok standard.
It’s good to see Ruan Pienaar getting a chance to start at scrumhalf. He played very well when he came on last week, and deserves his starting spot. Every time he has come on, he has provided a spark.
It will also be interesting to see how Frans Hougaard goes at wing in his run-on debut in that position. He has the experience of playing wing for the Bulls, and is a real game breaker with that X-Factor. I think he will do a great job.
I definitely think the changes will bring another dimension to our attack.
While the Wallaby coach has everything to lose, I feel the players have everything to gain. They will come out firing and will try to run us off our feet, separating our backs from our forwards. It will be a big test for us on defence.
That said, I have a feeling Australia are going to be in for a shock this Saturday. I’m backing the Boks to win by ten points.
The fact that we have a lot of support in Perth, which I would describe, as a ‘mini South Africa’ will definitely give the guys an added boost.
New Zealand’s clash with Argentina will also be interesting. So far, the Pumas have been extremely competitive. They have a good defence system and their work rate without the ball is amazing.
It will be a brutal clash, particularly upfront, but I think that if the All Blacks get quick ball they are definately going to win the game. Just by the standard the All Blacks are currently setting, they are probably the side that has gelled the most as a unit.JP Pietersen has played 45 Tests for the Springboks and is a 2007 Rugby World Cup-winner.
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