Boks adapt to breakdown law
Juan Smith (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein – South Africa were criticised earlier this year for struggling at the breakdowns after enjoying success in the Super 14.
However, in last Saturday’s 44-31 win over Australia in Pretoria very little was seen of Wallaby openside flank David Pocock.
The All Blacks and Wallabies dominated the Boks on the ground during their away games and questions were raised as to why they could not adapt to the new interpretation of the breakdown laws at international level.
Pocock and All Black flank Richie McCaw turned over possession like the Boks did when they had Heinrich Brüssow available.
Brüssow is currently unavailable due to a knee injury.
Many people believed then that the Boks would not be able to compete on the ground again without Brüssow.
A fit Brüssow certainly belongs in the Bok camp, but it looks as if the Boks’ opponents are not as dominant at the breakdowns as they were.
One can only wonder if the return of flank Juan Smith for the home Tests has something to do with that.
Smith is playing very well again and the established combination with No 8 Pierre Spies and flank Schalk Burger may just be enough to unnerve opponents.
Even so, De Villiers believes his team is now better equipped to unnerve opponents on the ground.
“I think we struggled to adapt overseas at the start of the Tri-Nations and with the way in which the breakdowns were refereed. It was completely different to the way it was officiated in the Super 14 and we took a while to adapt,” he said.
“Things are better now that we have adapted.”
While the Boks did well in the lineouts in Pretoria, lock Victor Matfield believes the breakdowns are the area in which they have improved the most.
He believes it had a big impact on the Boks’ first Tri-Nations victory of 2010 at Loftus Versfeld.
“The lineouts were much better in Pretoria, but I was particularly impressed by how well we did at the breakdowns,” said the Springbok lock.
Matfield believes the improvement is down to a team effort and hard work.