Anyone want to bet against the possibility that the Springboks go through this November tour of Wales, Scotland and France conceding no more than one or two tries?
It is quite possible given that the tourists have adjusted the balance of their game to replicate what will be needed when they come back this way in two years for the World Cup.
The Welsh broke the Bok line a few times early in the opening tour fixture last weekend in Cardiff, but the South Africans quickly readjusted their defence and they managed to keep the hosts from crossing the line at any stage of the 80 minutes.
And they will back themselves to come close to doing that again when they play Scotland this coming weekend, given that they have dropped the search for bonus points that became such a focus towards the end of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The Boks leaked several tries in the final match of the Championship against New Zealand, but defence coach John McFarland reminded a press conference in Edinburgh at the start of the build-up to Sunday’s Murrayfield match that the target on this tour will be very different from what it was at Ellis Park a month and a half ago.
“It was much better for us defensively in Cardiff and the guys stuck to the systems, but you have to remember that against New Zealand our goal was different to what you would normally set in a test match. We needed to score four tries to win the Rugby Championship and that was what we were chasing, so obviously our approach was different to what it would be when we are just playing to win,” said McFarland.
The Boks were criticised for defensive errors in Johannesburg, but McFarland is right when he says the mindset they took onto the field probably contributed to that.
The All Blacks, with all their emphasis on attack in that game, also made several defensive errors.
This tour, however, is all about just winning the games, without too much attention to the number of tries scored, and as that will also be the case during the critical play-off phase of the World Cup, it is logical that the Boks revert now to a more tactical game.
The early breaks by Wales centre Jonathan Davies set off alarm bells in the Bok camp at the Millennium Stadium, but McFarland had a good explanation for the early defensive lapses.
He agreed that the fact that Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen were playing their first games back after spending the last while playing club rugby in Japan was a contributing factor, but there were also others.
“If you look at the game flow from last Saturday’s game it did take us time to settle defensively, even for the whole team, not just the guys back from Japan. It takes time to settle when you haven’t played together for a while, and whereas we have been off for the past month or so, Australia and New Zealand have been continually on the go.
“There were two line breaks in the first 10 minutes. There was the one where Davies got through, but then there was also a bit of obstruction in the second. But there was nothing for Wales in the second half and again nothing in the back end of the game. So I was pleased with the defensive effort overall.”
The past two weeks have been McFarland’s first opportunity to work with Fourie, and while the centre did have a quiet game in Cardiff apart from the moment of individual brilliance that led to Fourie du Preez’s match-clinching try, he has been impressed.
“I have been very impressed with Jaque’s organisational ability and his communication. I am excited about the prospects going forward. It just takes a bit of time to get back into it and as I say, our entire defensive system took time to settle against Wales,” he said.
Big flanker Willem Alberts played an important role in leading the defensive effort against Wales.
“Willem made 19 tackles, which was quite phenomenal. He was our top tackler, and the thing about him is that most of those tackles were tackles where he physically dominated his opponent. Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen were also impressive and so was Jean de Villiers, and we remain strong across the channel between the back row and No 12.
“But what was really surprising was the defensive performance put in by Frans Malherbe. He made 15 tackles which is quite outstanding, particularly in a first test.”
So much nicer hearing the facts than some way out comments by the arm chair critics. Malherbe of course has always been outstanding on defence. The loose trio is well suited to NH conditions.
We have mentoring going on by Bakkies of Etzebeth and Du Toit and meyer continues to show his coaching expertise whilst the ignorant bleat how he is clueless. Bwahahahahahahha
Would like to have seen Deon Fourie get a chance. Man he is twice the player Coetzee is and ten times the player Kolisi is.