Springboks ‘must strangle Fiji possession’

2011-09-16 09:13

Wellington – South Africa must starve Fiji of possession to curb their potent attacking threat, and also to ensure the Springboks are not defending for the entire match again, assistant coach Gary Gold has said.

The World Cup holders meet Fiji in their Pool D clash at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday following a narrow 17-16 victory against Wales in their World Cup opener last week.

The Springboks needed to come from behind in that match as Wales dominated possession and Toby Faletau’s try with 25 minutes remaining gave the Welsh a 16-10 lead before a late Francois Hougaard try snatched victory.

Gold, however, said they Springboks were well aware that the Fijians, who prefer to throw the ball around, would provide a different threat to Wales, particuarly out wide with their dangerous wingers Vereniki Goneva and Napolioni Nalaga.

“A team like Fiji, their mindset is to want to play. They don’t come to World Cups wanting to defend,” Gold told reporters in Wellington today.

“The longer you starve them of possession, the longer you hold on to the ball and ... the longer we are disciplined to stay in our structures then I think ... we can break them down.”

Gold, who oversees the forward play of the Springboks, added that his side could not afford to defend as much as they did against Wales, not just against the Fijians, but as they looked further ahead into the tournament and possibly into the knockout phase.

“We can’t defend for such long periods of times against quality teams,” he said.

“No matter what your system, or how well coached our team is defensively, at the end of the day the wall is going to break if you allow the opposition to play as much rugby as we allowed Wales to do.

“We know that if we have to defend we will be good but we don’t want to put ourselves under that pressure again.”

The Springboks enter the match facing an injury crisis in their forward pack with Bakkies Botha the only specialist lock available in the 30-man squad.

Botha himself, however, remains a concern having recovered from a sore Achilles’ tendon that team management had suggested could end his World Cup.

Johan Muller, who was on the bench for the Fiji game was ruled out after failing a fitness test on his hamstring. Vice-captain Victor Matfield had already been ruled out, also with a hamstring injury.

Utility forward Danie Rossouw will partner Botha at lock, while loose forward Willem Alberts will cover lock should anything happen to either of the starting pair.

Winger Bryan Habana and centre Jean de Villiers were also ruled out of the game, though Fiji captain Deacon Manu said he doubted it would have any real effect on the strength of the Springboks.

“In some ways it’s irrelevant,” Manu told reporters yesterday after Fiji named their side for the clash.

“If you look at their 30-man squad, there’s strength and depth in a lot of positions and you look at the people who are replacing them and they’ve come off some pretty strong seasons for their clubs.

“I know they are missing some of their main players who they’ve gone to in the past, but the guys who have stepped up thoroughly deserve to be there.

“They are great players in their own right so, in terms of preparing for the game, it’s not going to make too much difference for us.” 

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