Bok forwards must repeat Newlands dominance

2017-11-08 08:35
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - When the Springboks went down 25-24 to the All Blacks at Newlands a month ago, it was their forward dominance that got them so close. 

Having been smashed 57-0 in Albany three weekends before that, nobody was giving the Boks a chance in the return leg against the world champions. 

But the performance that followed was one of courage and intensity, and that all started in the pack as the Boks pushed the All Blacks back on defence, dominated their set piece and spoiled ball on the ground. 

The All Blacks, as a result, were for large parts of the match unable to build any real momentum and they relied on a couple of well-executed counter attacks to score. 

The Boks were broken in defeat after coming within a whisker, but it was the type of showing that suggested that this side can be a force once more heading into the 2019 World Cup. 

The next leg of that journey starts on Saturday when the South Africans take on Ireland in Dublin. 

The last time the sides met, the Boks emerged with a 2-1 win on home soil in what was a fiercely contested series in coach Allister Coetzee's first three matches in charge. 

They go into the fixture as slight underdogs, but if the Boks are to come out on top they must replicate the performance of the forwards from that evening in Cape Town. 

Personnel-wise, the Boks are in good shape. 

Tendai Mtawarira is available for selection once more - though Steve Kitshoff was impressive in his absence against New Zealand - while Uzair Cassiem and Coenie Oosthuizen are also fit again. 

Whichever way Coetzee decides to go, he will want his big men to get the job done.

"If you look at the (home) matches against Australia and New Zealand it was a slightly different style that we played. It was almost a 'Game A' and 'Game B' type of effect," Springbok scrum coach Matt Proudfoot said from Dublin on Tuesday, before turning his attention specifically toward the All Black game.

"That game was designed for the All Black requirements and the way they defend and play.

"I think the emotional input from the pack was exceptional, particularly coming back from the previous game in Albany where we weren't good enough.

"I thought there was a much better intent at set phase. Our lineout was exceptional and we're still growing as a scrum. We were happy with what we did that week."

It is a crucial period for Springbok rugby and Coetzee. 

There have been marked improvements this year, but with Rassie Erasmus on his way to South Africa to take up the Director of Rugby position, how exactly Coetzee will fit in next year remains unclear. 

A clean sweep of wins on this northern hemisphere tour would certainly help his cause.

But, after such a grueling display against the All Blacks, will this Bok forward pack be able to repeat that against the Irish?

"We respect every international team we play against," Proudfoot said.

"The performance in Cape Town wasn't just about the All Blacks ... it's about what we want to say about ourselves.

"We had three tough games against Ireland last June and that still sits in our memory."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 19:30 SA time.


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