Boks have to adapt to the ref
Brisbane – Adapt or die.
That is the wake-up call from Springbok lock and vice-captain Victor Matfield, as well as tighthead prop BJ Botha, to the rest of their team-mates ahead of Saturday’s crucial Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies at the Suncorp Stadium.
It is particularly crucial for the Boks as an away victory is priceless in the competition.
The Springboks have to show they are still contenders after suffering two big blows against the All Blacks.
Frustration concerning referees’ handling of the breakdowns and an apparent bias against the Boks’ physical style has prompted South African rugby bosses to complain at administrative level.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) will express their concern about the inconsistent procedures with the citing of players in writing.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers also said in an interview with Australia’s Fox TV-network that his team are the victims of a World Cup tournament that will be played in New Zealand next year.
“Perhaps I should not say it in public, but maybe it was the right thing that they (the All Blacks) won,” he said.
On Saturday, however, it will be up to the players to show that they can win their own fights.
“We simply have to adapt better. The first priority will be not to get a yellow card because once that happens you chase the game,” said Matfield.
“One gets a feel after about 20 minutes about how the referee is applying the laws at the breakdowns and scrums, and you have to adapt accordingly,” added the veteran, who will play in his 98th Test.
The Springboks were down 3-20 in Auckland and 0-10 in Wellington inside those 20-minute periods that Matfield was referring to.
This means that the Boks will have to adapt even quicker, especially as Irish referee George Clancy is a relatively unknown quantity for the team.
The referee from Limerick will handle his 12th Test, but his first in the Tri-Nations.
Fortunately for the Boks, Botha knows him quite well and that knowledge can be of great value in the scrums as that is where the Boks want to overpower the Aussies.
“The first hit at the first scrum is very important for any front row. The problem is that you are not sure then what the referee’s rhythm will be, so it remains a big challenge,” said Botha.
“Clancy likes to let the game flow, which will suit both teams. However, how we fare at the scrums and breakdowns will depend on how quickly we adapt.”
The Wallaby scrum is notorious for its ability to be able to neutralise opponents’ good scrumming. Botha believes the Boks will be able to handle the trickery of Wallaby loosehead Benn Robinson.