Duane: Boks learning to end better

2015-10-03 08:50
Duane Vermeulen (Gallo Images)
Newcastle - Springbok pack kingpin Duane Vermeulen says the side are getting to grips now with an area of regular weakness this year: closing out matches in their favour in the dying stages.

Their inconsistent results during 2015, right up to very recently at the World Cup itself, have been attributable in no small measure to a strange subsidence habit in the final quarter or thereabouts of Tests.

Games that immediately spring to mind are the Castle Rugby Championship clashes against both Australia and New Zealand, when the Boks had seemed quite healthily set for conquest until they lost grips at critical, advanced stages.

The same virus was evident again in their tumultuous, surrendered first RWC 2015 match against Japan in Brighton, when the rank underdogs launched raid after raid in the closing minutes and the Boks lost their shape and reportedly strayed from a pre-arranged formula with damaging consequences.

But the phenomenon was pleasingly banished - or more specifically reversed - in the 46-6 bounce-back victory over Samoa in Birmingham last Saturday, when South Africa played some of their most compelling rugby in the final 21 minutes as they ran in four of their six tries on the day.

Vermeulen, speaking at the intended captain’s press conference at St James’ Park here on Friday - where the Boks did not present acting skipper Fourie du Preez ahead of the big Scotland clash and instead opted for a trio comprising Vermeulen, Tendai Mtawarira and backline coach Ricardo Loubscher - told Sport24 there had been a conscious quest to break the fadeout trend.

“Yes, we actually had a good chat about that. We had (noticed) that stat and knew it was something we had to work on.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve yet figured out quite what the problem has been. Is it a fatigue issue? A lack of effort? We definitely believe it doesn’t (lie there) ... everyone gives their best.

“I think much of it comes down to discipline; like last week we still gave away 15 penalties. We definitely want to get that figure down, and when you get that down, you’re a little bit more on the front foot – you don’t find yourself standing and facing a possible three points against you every five or six minutes.

“Hopefully we can keep working on that aspect, (as well as) that stage between 50 and 70 minutes ... keep improving. It will also help us maintain the winning rugby brand we want to have.

“The vibe’s been much better this week. The main focus has still been how we want to play and what we as a team want to achieve.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the Bok pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.

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