England in SA
Boks working on breakdowns
Johann van Graan (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan says while his pack’s performance at the breakdown against England last weekend was not as bad as it looked, he was looking for an improvement in this area.
“We had a good look at the breakdown and there is a bit of a perception there,” said Van Graan on Tuesday.
“There were 96 breakdowns on our ball and we only lost five - three were the carriers and two the cleaners,” said Van Graan on Tuesday.
“So we worked quite hard on it yesterday (Monday), and we’ll keep improving.”
Van Graan also praised England’s forward pack for the way they approached the ruck area which also added pressure on the home side.
The Springboks struggled to get forward ball in the first half with the scores levelled at 6-6 going into the half-time break.
It was particularly at the breakdown area where England seemed to have bothered South Africa’s new look forward pack.
“I think what England did well was they counter-rucked quite well and brought some numbers from our guys to the breakdown,” he said.
“From the second and third phase, we were maybe short of a number once or twice.
“But it was only five breakdowns out of 96, so percentage wise, it's not a big problem but obviously we want to aim for a 100 percent.”
Van Graan thought England’s approach at the breakdown was quite different from what South African’s were used to in the Southern Hemisphere.
While Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may have taken a risk selecting two rookie locks in Juandré Kruger and Eben Etzebeth for the first Test, they both seemed to have passed their debuts with flying colours, filling the massive void left by stalwarts Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.
“I thought Juandré did really well in his first Test,” said Van Graan.
“It is a lot of responsibility on the five lock to make the calls and also organise the contesting and the kickoffs.
“I thought the calls were quite good and there were 15 lineouts on our ball of which we lost three.”
The 21-year-old Etzebeth, said Van Graan, has had an "amazing season and he will just keep improving" and his cleaning at the ruck area was outstanding.
The Boks have been dealt a huge blow with versatile prop Coenie Oosthuizen being ruled out for two to three months with a neck injury on Tuesday.
“I think he (Oosthuizen) showed in his first Test what he can do and he is a big loss for the Springboks because he can play both loose and tighthead,” Van Graan said.
“I thought he had an unbelievable Super Rugby season so we are very sad for him.”
Bulls prop Dean Greyling has been called into camp to replace Oosthuizen, who made his Test debut off the bench.
The Springboks' terrier-like scrumhalf Francois Hougaard came under some scrutiny for his slow clearing of the ball at the ruck on Saturday.
Van Graan, however, said it was not only the No 9's responsibility to ensure quick ball clearance.
“The quickness of the ball was not the way we wanted it,” he said.
“But at the breakdown everybody always looks at the cleaner and the nine but it starts with the carriers, then the cleaners and only thirdly you can look at the halfback.”
He said the forwards established some quick possession after half-time, which gave Hougaard and his replacement Ruan Pienaar front foot ball.
“That got the whole team a lot of momentum and we scored some great tries from there.”