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Boks prove life after Matfield

2012-11-26 07:09

Cape Town - The retirement last year of Victor Matfield, one of the world’s best lineout specialists of all time, was expected to leave a void in that department that would not too easily be filled by South Africa.

But the Springboks of 2012 have instead only blossomed more and more in that crucial set-piece, arguably even to the point that they are as effective now as they were at any stage of the lengthy Matfield era.

Their polish in that area was a key factor in ensuring an unbeaten three-Test tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom, where every game was pretty closely contested - and none more so than the dramatic closing match at rain-lashed Twickenham on Saturday.

Video highlights: England v South Africa

Clearly tired and outgunned as a consequence in some other forward areas of the nail-biting match, the Bok lineout made a decisive difference, both through the ongoing comfort of securing possession on their own throw-in and in claiming several precious England steals as well.

Their mastery of the skies did not go unnoticed in the English press, with several papers making reference to the vital advantage.

Praising South Africa for being the “smarter side” in the testing conditions, The Observer’s Andy Bull added: “England made 16 handling mistakes, more than three times as many as the opposition, and lost three lineouts in the first half alone.

“They were entirely outmanoeuvred by a South African unit that has not lost a single throw in three Tests on this tour.”

Hugh Godwin of the Sunday Independent said: “The home lineout, that had been faultless before this autumn, failed under the adroit assault of Eben Etzebeth and Juandré Kruger.

“The remarkable Etzebeth ... still has no idea what it is to lose to England.”

The Guardian’s Michael Butler also picked up on the lineout strength and general fire of Etzebeth: “The 21-year-old showed why he is such an exciting prospect ... great athleticism at the lineout and didn’t tire until the end.”

It will be a pleasing thought to many South Africans that the freakishly tall Andries Bekker ought to be back next season to challenge for a Bok berth, whilst another currently rehabbing Test stalwart, Pierre Spies, is also a quality lineout man - although he will have a real battle on his hands to dislodge incumbent No 8 Duane Vermeulen, the player-of-the-match at Twickenham.

The role of hooker Adriaan Strauss cannot be discounted: the unfailing accuracy of his throwing, even in sometimes swirling winds and squalls, was as important in ensuring the high calibre of Bok lineout play on tour.

It is just one reason why he might make it difficult for coach Heyneke Meyer to sideline him once the known world-class Bismarck du Plessis, whose greatest No 2 strengths perhaps lie in other areas of play, recovers from his serious knee injury in 2013.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Sport24

Comments
  • Maaifoedie - 2012-11-26 17:46

    Andries Bekker is a Nr 5 lock, he will have to dislodge Jeandré Kruger. Bismarck du Plessis has got certain strengths in his way of playing, but it should be noted that he is notorious for driving in an upright position, and more often than not loses the ball forward in contact. His line-out throwing hasn't been the best in the past either. Strauss has in turn managed to poach a few balls in the loose, and also brings crucial extra weight to the front row, which is playing much better than in the first few tests under HM. It would be a mistake to replace Strauss. Pienaar (slow in cleaning the oven) should be replaced by Hougaard (who had played at Nr 9 in the first few tests behind a retreating forward pack, unlike now), and Goosen should come back into flyhalf, for his superior attacking abilities, added to which the fact that he has had a higher goalkicking % than the other flyhalves, including Lambie, and has excellent defence. Van der Linde was a disaster on prop, and almost cost us the game. Steenkamp was almost as bad, Heinke vd Merwe and the Beast are both better. Jacques Fourie, where are you man ? What possessed you to turn your back on the Springboks ? Come back, we forgive you !!

      rashid.mahomed1 - 2012-11-27 10:44

      hi how can u say that Goosen has a higher % record when he has hardly played for the boks and he has not yet played enough international rugby to regard hin as the fly half as the attacking fly half , even lambie is attacking but had to play according to HM plans , so will Goosen play and then u will say next year this time that even Goosen is bad , so u think that hougard is better but he does not play there for the bulls he is second choice , think what happens when Francs Steyns get back

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