Schalk Burger

Onwards and upwards

2012-06-15 21:02
Sport24 columnist Schalk Burger (File)
Watching the rugby on TV is obviously not ideal but you kind of get used to it I suppose. But being out injured is never fun and is the worst part of rugby. It’s made even more terrible when the teams you represent are playing well.

When I will return is still the million-dollar question. I’m getting better slowly. I’m kind of running like an old car now, all straight lines and no breaking or turning. It’s pretty frustrating that there isn’t a specific timeline on when I’ll be back. It’s a week-by-week assessment.

Turning to the Springboks, I felt they got the series off to a really good start. With wholesale changes to the management and the team playing together for the first time under new structures, it was great to get a victory.

On the whole, I don’t think the guys will be too happy with the first half performance last weekend, but I feel we can expect an improved 80-minute performance for the Boks this Saturday. I expect an increase in accuracy and tempo from the guys.

In the first half especially England did well to slow down the Boks’ ball at the breakdown. I felt that we were a little to static at the breakdown in the first half, but got it going in the second forty owing to some quick ball. Once we got quick ball, our big ball runners were able to get over the advantage line.

The breakdown is always a tough battle, and if the English manage to slow down the ball in that facet, they will be tough to beat.

England is a good side, and will probably come out firing, but as will we. We are a team that can improve quite a lot from our first performance. It is a quick turnaround, so I see the Boks posing a bigger challenge this weekend. 

Both sides have made a few changes. I see England have made a change at flyhalf. In my opinion both are good players, so it will be interesting to see how they go this weekend.

For the Boks, the loss of Coenie Oosthuizen is big. He is a young player with a bright future. Speaking from experience, it’s never nice to injure your neck, and hopefully he can recover soon. That said, we still have quality props in the side and I expect our scrum to go well again.

But England will no doubt have a new plan for the Boks come scrum time, as that is an area all teams pride themselves on. 

It’s fantastic to see a youngster like Eben Etzebeth in the Bok team. With the modern season now being so long, I think we will see a lot more talented youngsters getting opportunities earlier in their careers.

Marcell Coetzee is another great young player full of energy. He gets stuck in and really played well last time out.

I felt the Bok lineout went well, especially considering the two young locks were making their debuts. Your first test match is always a bit nerve-wracking - so the debutants will feel more comfortable this week and the nerves will have settled. We can expect all of them to start blossoming.

It was fantastic for Jean to get a victory in his first game as Bok captain. He is a quality citizen and a great rugby player, and it’s great to see him doing well for the Boks. He is the kind of guy you want to follow. He puts the team ahead of himself every time. If the injury bug stays away, we can expect a fantastic season from him.

I expect the impact players will again get a good run out this weekend. It always helps to have some fresh players come on in the last 20 minutes with fresh attitude and endeavour. That’s why you have substitutes - to make a difference in the game.

Being Test matches, there is not a lot in them. England will have taken a lot of pride having come really close in Durban. But I expect the Boks to pick up their tempo and play with more accuracy and intensity.

While I don’t want to put the players under any pressure by giving a score prediction, I’m backing the Boks for victory. I think they will win it with a step up in intensity and speed in their game.

Schalk Burger is a veteran of 68 Tests for South Africa and is the reigning SA Rugby Player of the Year.

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