Rugby Championship

Hansen praises Bok midfield axis

2015-07-23 19:22
Damian de Allende (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg – With only two matches together as a combination, New Zealand coach Steven Hansen believes the Springboks' inexperienced but exciting midfield axis of flyhalf Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel could become a formidable one in future.

“They haven’t had a lot of Test matches but they are certainly three good athletes, the boy that has moved in from fullback (Kriel), he really looked good last week, he’s got some gas,” Hansen said.

“His partner (De Allende) is a big, strong boy and Pollard looks like he can be something special as time goes on.

“I think they’ll look to grow that combination as time goes by and hopefully Jean de Villiers would be back, it would be great to see him back from his knee injury.

“I know he’s worked really hard but once there is a change in the guard I tell you those three will be there for some time.”

De Alllende has been the form inside centre in this year's Super Rugby competition while Jesse Kriel has been a revelation for the Bulls at fullback although he is equally adept on the wing and at outside centre.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer's gamble to shift Kriel to No13 has paid off so far and could be an answer to the dearth of talent in that position.

Hansen believed the clash against the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday will give some clarity on both the opposition and his own personnel for the Rugby World Cup later this year.

Naming two debutants in Lima Sopoaga at flyhalf and James Broadhurst for the titanic clash, Hansen demonstrated he was not afraid to make a gamble.

“We know that we are up against one of the best sides in the world, if not the best playing them on their home patch and what better challenge to see young players in,” Hansen said in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“We are mindful of the fact there is a World Cup at the end of the year and we’ve got to select the right 31 people to go to that.

“We are also mindful we’ve got to have an experienced side on the park to be able to compete but at the same time we have to be brave enough to make some selections that will allow us to go forward in future.”

Hansen, who has forged a close relationship with Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer over the last few seasons, said his rival’s selections for the Test could give some insights of the game plan he had in mind.

The Boks have brought renowned fetcher flanker Heinrich Brüssow in from the cold to form a loose trio with eighthman and captain Schalk Burger and Francois Louw on the blindside.

This effectively leaves South Africa with two specialist openside flankers who has an affinity for the breakdown battle and little in terms of ball-carrying ability.

“It may provide an opportunity at lineout time but I think it does provide a big threat at the breakdown and that is probably why H (Heyneke Meyer) has selected him (Brüssow),” Hansen said.

“He (Meyer) has a game plan in mind that he wants to plan and he wants two guys on the park that are effective at the breakdown and put pressure on us. You get an understanding of how he wants to play the game.”

The two old foes will go up against each other at one of South Africa’s hallowed grounds for the third consecutive year.

The last two encounters have dished up everything that once can expect of one rugby's greatest clashes with the New Zealanders winning a cracker in the final match of the Rugby Championship to win the title in 2013.

A late long-range Pat Lambie penalty brought the All Blacks’ impressive 21-match undefeated run to an end and gave Meyer his first victory over the defending World Championships.

While the winner on Saturday could claim a psychological victory over the other ahead of the World Cup where the two sides are likely to meet in a quarterfinal, Hansen said he looked no further than this clash.

“This is about this contest and what we can learn about ourselves and about South Africa I guess and it’s about a performance that we can be proud of and hopefully good enough for us to get a win,” he said.

“You’ve got to have the ability to play a tight game as well as a free-flowing game, then you look at the opposition and pick the when you like.”


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