Off the back of a resounding victory
against the USA at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, Heyneke Meyer’s decision to limit the number of changes in terms of playing
personnel and keep the core of the team together has been vindicated.
agree with what Heyneke has done, and believe it will make a big difference
heading in the knock-out phase of the tournament.
The Springboks require a mix
of momentum and continuity heading into the quarter-finals in 10 days’
The loose trio of Francois Louw, Schalk
Burger and Duane Vermeulen has come together nicely and Fourie du Preez has
done a sound job as captain having taken over from the injured Jean de
Du Preez plays a pivotal role in the team
because South Africa, like many of the French sides of old, is run from number
nine and not 10.
Twenty-one-year-old flyhalf Handré Pollard is a real talent, but Du
Preez conducts the orchestra.
South Africa’s style is to predominantly play off
nine because they aim to dominate sides physically. As such, they want their
bruising forwards as close to the gain line as possible. Young locks Eben
Etzebeth and Lood de Jager have been absolutely outstanding during the World
Cup and have contributed a combined tally of 70 carries after South Africa’s
four pool fixtures.
The Springboks are a very strong set-piece
side, play for territory and, as outlined above, endeavour to dominate sides
from a physical standpoint. To a large extent, South Africa possesses a ‘subdue
and penetrate’ mentality. By and large, South Africa’s backs are not unleashed
from inside their half unless there is a turnover or intercept. Fundamentally,
the men in green and gold play rugby when they are deep inside the opposition
half i.e. the 22.
By all accounts, South Africa’s tactical
kicking game needs to be on song and their defence and set-piece potent because
the fact of the matter is they are not going to win the World Cup through their
attack. This was particularly evident last night when the USA were totally
In terms of their tactical kicking game,
sticking to their structures is critical. Heyneke’s men will have a set structure
in place before they kick so that they have the right players on their feet,
can set up a decent chase line and the necessary cover at the back. The upshot
is that when the Springboks kick, it will be anticipated and every player will
be well aware of his role.
When you play physically like South Africa
does, the concession of penalties and yellow cards is always a risk. The
Springboks have conceded an average of just over 12 penalties per match, which
is on the high side because you always want to keep the penalty count down to
single figures. A lack of on-field discipline is obviously a point of frustration
for coaches and the team, but the reality is you are dealing with human beings
and not machines. World Rugby has made a big statement on the welfare of the
players. Consequently, referees are hammering anything above the neck line at
this World Cup. Players also have to you have to be very careful with the
contest in the air, clean outs and tackles not using the arms. All coaches
understand that the safety of players is paramount.
South Africa will be interested spectators
when Australia tackle Wales at Twickenham on Saturday because they will face
the runners-up of Pool A. Warren Gatland has done a great job with a Welsh side
that has been decimated by injuries, but even without the influence of Michael
Hooper, who will serve a one-week suspension for foul play, I expect Australia
to prevail. I have said from the beginning that I believe Australia is going to
win this World Cup. Michael Cheika is an exceptional coach who has added steel
to the Wallabies without taking away from their flair and ability to play good
attacking rugby. He has done a fantastic job and they have every prospect of
going all the way.
Alan Solomons was assistant coach to
Nick Mallett during the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Having served as the Southern
Kings’ director of rugby, he is now head coach of Edinburgh.
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