Cape Town - The Springboks will not be going onto the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium field for the deciding match against Ireland on Saturday thinking that they can start off playing the rugby they finished with in Johannesburg at the weekend.
That much was made clear on Monday by coach Allister Coetzee, who has hinted that he may stick with the players who started at Emirates Airlines Park even though it was a much changed side that finished the game and was seen to be responsible for the magnificent comeback from a 19-3 halftime deficit to score a 32-26 win.
There was a perception after the game that the way the Boks played in the second half, with the Lions players contributing strongly to an upping of the tempo that took the Irish out of their comfort zone, was an indication of the way forward and would impact on selection this week.
But according to Coetzee, the match in Johannesburg went according to plan, with the second half quick tempo approach always being part of the initial script after the foundation had been laid earlier.
“Test rugby is always about two halves,” said Coetzee. “The first half is a battle of attrition. That is when you absorb the pressure and soften up you opponents and wear them down and get physical ascendancy so that in the second half you can dominate. How do you know that the guys who started the game didn’t do the job and weren’t just as responsible for the win as the guys who did well in the second half were?
“It was typical test match rugby in Johannesburg. It was tight and close in the first half, but unfortunately we conceded too many penalties and that allowed them to get ahead of us. But our bench did the job they were expected to do after halftime. If you have a bench it must make an impact. And that is what happened.”
Coetzee spoke about territory and discipline being important at the start of the build-up week to the Johannesburg game, and it was no different as he started to prepare for the Port Elizabeth test match on Monday.
“We won’t be approaching this game any differently,” said Coetzee in response to a question about whether the way the Boks prevailed with ball in hand in the second half might have changed his thinking with regards both selection and game strategy.
“It will be a battle of attrition at the start. You don’t get easy test matches. We must have patience in our plan, we must focus on having a good set piece again, and we must be patient in our kicking game. Our aerial skills must improve this week. The Irish will feel that they’ve had great reward so far with their kicking game. That is one of the things we will focus on at today’s training session in Zwide.
“Although we were well behind at halftime in Johannesburg, I still saw some great stuff in the first half. We had opportunities to score, we just never made use of them. We lost too much ball in contact, and that with the penalties that we conceded, hampered our continuity. One of our other big focusses today will be our handling of the contact.
“The Irish are very good at stripping the player in possession of the ball. We saw that a few times in the first half. They don’t just come at you with double tackles. They also try to strip you of the ball. We saw them do that to Damian de Allende right in front of the sticks and to Siya Kolisi too. I thought our body position was much better in the second half and the way we were rewarded for our carrying the ball will give the players confidence on an individual level.”
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