Rugby Championship

Bok back three defensive woes a 'perception'

2017-09-27 15:27
Courtnall Skosan (Gallo)

Mark Keohane puts his neck on the line ahead of Saturday's Springboks v Wallabies Rugby Championship clash in Bloemfontein.

Bloemfontein - Springbok backline coach Franco Smith believes it's an incorrect perception that the side's back three struggles both defensively and in dealing with the high ball. 

It's been well-documented that right wing Raymond Rhule - since dropped from the side - slipped nine tackles in the 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany two weekends ago. 

But there has been concern over the ability of Courtnall Skosan in the air, too, and with Australia expected to kick on the Springbok back three in Bloemfontein this weekend, Smith was asked on Tuesday to respond to the criticism that the Bok back three is an area of defensive weakness. 

"That's a perception. If you look at the detail, and we work with it every day, then that's a perception that is actually wrong," Smith said.

"If you see how much the ball has been dropped by other teams and our predecessors, you will see that it's not much different to what we've been doing.

"In fact, I think we've been working really hard at it and generally there is a big improvement.

"You can't judge a guy if he drops one ball and points come off it. The other three that he handled well must also be noticed as well."

The Bok back three has been unchanged up until now in 2017 with wings Rhule and Skosan, and fullback Andries Coetzee all making their debuts in the first Test against France back in June. 

"What must also be noted is that we still sit with one of the most inexperienced back threes in rugby at this stage on the international scene and we've just got to work through this period," Smith added.

"It's seven games we've been together.

"Coach Allister (Coetzee) decided that for us to be competitive there are certain things that must happen. We were spoilt for selection back then."

Smith was referring to the decision from Coetzee and SA Rugby to back more local players, with the rule that no player who is overseas-based and capped less than 30 times at international level can be selected for the Boks.

"We need more players in every role with enough experience and then we need to have the best guy out there," Smith offered, adding that he wanted the Wallabies to test the Boks aerially. 

"We know that if we get that ball in the air, we're going to play rugby. We hope they give us a lot of high balls so we can play off it."

Rhule will almost certainly be replaced by Dillyn Leyds on Saturday, and the hope is that the 25-year-old's experience will see him dominate the aerial battle.

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:00.

Follow Sport24's @LloydBurnard for live updates from Bloemfontein...


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