Gary Boshoff

Time to deliver, Peter

2011-10-04 10:09
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)
Gary Boshoff

The entire hullabaloo about how Francois Steyn’s exit from the RWC is such a massive blow to the Springboks’ chances is a bit over the top for me. 

The fact is Steyn was selected as fullback while we have the most experienced midfield pairing in Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie as our first-choice centres for the tournament. They are still available and as far as I am concerned nothing much has changed.

Now you might go on and cite Steyn's massive boot and the huge impact he had in the midfield against Fiji and Namibia, and to a lesser degree against Wales and Samoa. In the more intense and closer contests that await the Springboks they will require tested combinations, experience and grit and determination to withstand the tactical and physical onslaught that will be forthcoming form their opponents (Australia, New Zealand and possibly England/Ireland) if they make it through to the final.  

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in my estimation the Springboks’ biggest test will not be in the midfield, but up front, despite Peter de Villiers's warning that the Springboks will target the Australian scrum on Sunday.

Let’s take a look at the scrum and all the problems that come with it at present. 

The RWC has not proved to be any different from the indifferent way in which the myriad of possible transgressions committed by the front-rankers have been adjudicated by the cream of the world’s referees. 

Which brings me firstly to the innovative and shrewd Australians who have become renowned over the years for their ability to exploit loopholes in the laws of the game. They have consistently outmaneuvered their opponents on this score in the past. Add to this the susceptibility of Jannie du Plessis to provocation and we might just find the scrums to be our Achilles heel rather than our trump card against the Australians. 

And referee Bryce Lawrence? Need I say more?

It is therefore crucial for Peter de Villiers to get his selection right. We need to start with Bismarck du Plessis as his physical presence in the scrum (alongside his brother Jannie) and across the park will be sorely needed especially in the absence of Bakkies Botha who I believe should not even be on the bench for this crucial game. We cannot afford to field players that are not 100% fit. Bakkies must sit this one out and hope for the best. 

The Springboks need to take this game to the Australians from the outset. We will not win the World Cup by waiting for the opposition to run at us or make a mistake. The match statistics of the Springboks v Samoa game reflects a Springboks side that defended most of the time, missed tackles, allowed line-breaks where they shouldn’t have and missed opportunities on attack due to a rather careful approach. 

A similar approach against the alert and watchful Wallabies will spell the end to the Springboks' tournament dreams.

Another concern which again raised its ugly head against the Samoans is the tendency of both Bryan Habana and Fourie to come off their defensive lines when the heat is on. 

In the Samoan game it led to the Samoans' only try after Fourie was tempted to shoot off his line. During the Tri-Nations Test in Port Elizabeth he saved two tries against the All Blacks doing the same. 

However, you never know when this tactic might back-fire with major consequences. With Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane back on duty, the Springboks' midfield will have to be at their defensive best, especially during that first half when it will be crucial to get their noses in front. It is imperative that the Springboks get points on the board first and keep it rolling as playing catch-up during the knock-out stage is no easy task.

Finally, the key to the Springboks' success this Sunday has much to do with the technical analysis and information the Springboks' brains trust have been able to accumulate about the Wallaby game plan or match strategies thus far. 

I believe success during the next phase of the tournament will be heavily dependent on the detailed analytical understanding of opposition tactics and game strategies and the respective technical teams' expertise in devising their own tactics to counter and out-manoeuvre their opponents.

Will it be a case of Australian wit defeating the South African brawn yet again? Or can the Springboks’ brains trust rise to the occasion and guide the Springboks over this hurdle?

It’s time to deliver on the promise Peter!    

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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