Boks should break shackles

2012-09-14 09:09
Sport24 columnist Alan Solomons (File)
I thought the Springboks’ performance in Perth was much better than that in Mendoza. At half-time I felt they were going to win the game. Mentally the Boks would have gone into the game in a better frame of mind.

In the first half, Australia lacked confidence and the Boks allowed them back into the game in the second stanza owing to a couple of defensive lapses. The Boks may lack test experience in the pack, but in the backline, I wouldn’t say that’s the case. While their attack was better than the week prior, they still have to discover more creativity.

I must be honest; I don’t think the Boks have anything to lose this Saturday. I think that if you ask most South African rugby fans, they will not be expecting the Boks to win this match.

I’m not saying the Springboks can’t do so, but the odds are certainly stacked against them. Historically, Dunedin hasn’t proved a happy hunting ground, and now well into their tour and off the back of a loss, it’s a tough ask for the team.

Personally, I believe that this week would have been an ideal opportunity to freshen things up personnel wise. It would have been great if we had given it go and selected Pat Lambie at fullback, picked Francois Hougaard and Johan Goosen as the halfback pairing, given Juan de Jongh a run at outside centre, shifted Jean de Villiers to 12 and afforded Lwazi Mvovo another crack on the wing.

I felt this match represented a chance to experiment with combinations, as there will be less pressure on the Boks in this game than when they play the reverse fixtures at home.

Both Goosen and Lambie are capable of breaking open a game, thus the rationale behind bringing them on with ten minutes remaining last week. But I’m saying that these guys should have been given a full go in Dunedin, as they are special players capable of making things happen.

Ruan Pienaar is a very good organisational scrumhalf with a prodigious boot. He has played outstandingly for Ulster, and is ideally suited to northern hemisphere conditions. However, if you want to play with a little more tempo and look to be more creative, then Hougaard is the better bet. I don’t think Pienaar presents the same challenges for defences around the fringes than Hougaard does. The latter boasts excellent service and to be honest I think his box kicking is sound.

Morne Steyn does come under increased pressure at flyhalf. He is an experienced player and like Pienaar is an excellent organiser with a good boot. However, if he’s not on song with the boot, then that’s going to present problems for him as the likes of Goosen and Lambie are both capable kickers and present challenges on attack that Steyn doesn’t.

While this game presented an opportunity for the coaches to have looked at something different in terms of personnel and playing pattern, I didn’t expect wholesale changes. After last week’s match, Heyneke said that he felt the side aren’t far off from being successful and that he’s looking to build consistency.

Ultimately, Heyneke is the man in the hot seat. I think pressure comes with the territory of being Springbok coach. South Africa is a demanding rugby public after success.

As a coach, there is nothing you can do about the external pressure as it is out of your control. Heyneke will be aware that you simply cannot allow those pressures to deflect your focus and enter or affect the group you are working with.

While the Boks had two defensive lapses against the Wallabies, their defence has always been pretty solid. However, this Saturday it will be tested like never before.

The All Blacks will certainly miss Dan Carter’s influence at pivot. In my book, he’s the greatest flyhalf there has ever been. They are now also without Sonny Bill Williams, but I think the All Blacks are a good enough all-round side to compensate. Aaron Cruden and Conrad Smith are more than capable replacements.

While I’m taking New Zealand to win the game by at least a 10-point margin, I’m optimistic the Boks will offer an improved performance and give a good account of themselves.

Turning to the Wallabies, I feel they have generated plenty of confidence having broken their duck last week and if the weather is good, I see them moving Argentina around the park a lot.

The Pumas have played very well thus far, and have proved passionate, competitive and committed. While I think they will again give a good account of themselves, I’m predicting the Wallabies to come home by roughly 15 points.

Alan Solomons was assistant coach to Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.

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