Cape Town - The Springboks have turned the clock “back to zero” this week and see this as the start of their campaign for the 2019 World Cup.
After their horror loss against the All Blacks in Durban, the team management have done some serious introspection, according to assistant coach Johann van Graan, and see this opportunity to work with two national squads for the next week as key to their endeavours for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
According to the SuperSport.com website, those playing in the Barbarians game will get the opportunity to stake a claim for higher honours and to impress the coaching staff, but at the same time look to take the first steps to being part of the 2019 World Cup squad as Bok rugby looks for some form of redemption in the current sea of angst.
Van Graan admitted the week was important in terms of the 2019 project, especially when it came to doing the little things right that make such a big difference in Test matches, but while there was a lot of excitement and energy in the squad at the moment, it would need to be channelled in the right direction for the Boks to go forward.
“The coach has said he has targeted around 45 players that he wants to see at the 2019 World Cup and that starts now,” Van Graan said.
“We went back to base zero, and in everything we do we looked at how we can improve. The players can talk more than that, but it is about focusing on the small detail – on ball carrying ability, on cleaning out rucks, on focusing on space, on our mindset.
“We want to get the ball in our hands and if you want to do that you have to start at zero. We will live for this week, focus on this week. Once we get to London we will focus a bit more on the Barbarians specifically.”
While Van Graan admitted the prospect of almost a full team joining them after the Barbarians game for the rest of the tour is “not ideal”, the overseas based players were senior enough to slot in rather quickly.
“It is not ideal, but it is what it is and it has been like that for a few years now. Luckily most of those guys are very experienced players, and have all been part of the system.
“That is why we have a specific plan to focus on our skill level and to up-skill our players and that sort of detail fits into the bigger plan, which is obviously to win test matches.
“It isn’t ideal, only a few sessions before we face England but they are included in all our communication. It is what it is.”
The Bok assistant coach said the team needed to work on their areas of concern ahead of the tour, and there were small changes that could make big differences to the side if they get these right.
“If we look back at the Rugby Championship, we’re very happy with our set-piece. We ended No 1 if you combine scrums and lineouts in the stats.
“Where we need to improve is our defence and our kicking game and that is specific where JP and Franco come in. Once we get into that attacking zone we need to finish our opportunities.
“That comes with better skill, that comes with working on it day to day.”
Van Graan said the two new coaches - defence coach JP Ferreira and backline coach Franco Smith - had added a lot of value to the side, and were having an impact on the coaching of the team already.
“They’ve been brilliant and coach Allister creates a great environment for the coaching team. Starting with JP - I’ve known him for a long time and he is very detail orientated and has been doing well with the Lions.
And what a season for Franco, coming into Super Rugby for the new year and winning the Currie Cup. Loads of excitement and one or two new ideas which we all enjoyed. Like I said before it is about tying all the small things together in a plan that we can execute next Saturday
“It is challenging but the nice thing is the other guys aren’t here at this stage, so we are only 30 players, one or two injuries, so the squad has been pretty small. The challenging thing is to get the big plan together but we’ve been working on our small little puzzles - breakdown detail, running lines details, counter-attacking detail, scrums, kickoffs and mauling detail.”
The Boks leave for Europe this weekend.
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