Rassie backs Bok youngsters to improve defence

2018-06-19 08:32
S'bu Nkosi (right) and Aphiwe Dyantyi (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Springboks, over the last two weekends, have done enough to suggest that there is hope yet. 

Back-to-back wins over Eddie Jones' England, who not so long ago were considered the only nation capable of challenging New Zealand at next year's Rugby World Cup, have gone a long way towards extinguishing the disappointment that came in 2016 and 2017. 

For all his good intentions, the Allister Coetzee era will go down as one of the darkest periods in South African rugby history. 

When the decision was taken to part ways with the former Stormers boss at the end of 2017, South African rugby needed an injection of something fresh. 

Three Tests into Rassie Erasmus' tenure as coach, that seems to be exactly what has happened. 

The first two Tests against England in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein have seen the Boks play an attacking brand of rugby that was absent throughout the Coetzee era. 

While still paying mind to the traditional strengths of Bok rugby, Erasmus has this side looking as enterprising as ever with ball in hand. 

The likes of Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi and S'bu Nkosi have been particularly exciting when moving forward, and for the first time in a long time it seems like the Boks have the ability to hurt opposition sides with quick recycling or turnover ball. 

That said, the starts in both Test matches remain a concern. 

In Johannesburg the Boks were 24-3 down in no time while, in Bloemfontein, they conceded two early tries to go 12-0 down. 

The intensity on attack that followed meant that the Boks could recover, but there are still worries over the defensive frailties that have existed, especially in the wide channels where England have found space. 

Both Nkosi and Dyantyi have been found wanting at times, while there are also suggestions that the defensive alignment between Am and his wings is slightly out of sync. 

Whatever it is, Erasmus believes that the problems will be rectified with time.

"I think it's just experience. It's like putting a short putt in your back yard; when it's only you watching that putt you'll nail it every single time," he explained.

"But if you do it in front of 50 000 under pressure, the only way you can get used to that is to feel it under that situation and make those mistakes.

"Then you go and do the review and put it under the same pressure at training sessions and just repeat that process so that they get used to it."

Am has now played three Tests for the Boks while Dyantyi and Nkosi have two each.

"They are young, and they'll get it right over time," Erasmus said.

"It almost cost us the game (in the first Test), but those guys who made those mistakes scored some wonderful tries as well. For us as coaches it's about staying calm and giving the guys time to learn from their mistakes."

While the overall picture is positive, and the improvement is there for all to see, Erasmus conceded that there was still a lot to be done.

"On the field I think we've definitely improved in areas which we thought previously were some of our weaknesses," he said.

"We're not great yet but I think the kicking game and aerial skills are getting better and, tactically, I think we are more or less getting better with the balance between attack and defence."

Erasmus has conceded that there will be a number of changes made to his side for the third Test in Cape Town on Saturday. 

Kick-off is at 17:05.

Read more on:    springboks  |  rassie erasmus  |  cape town  |  rugby


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