Bok sluggishness to be targeted

2009-09-03 00:00

THE Springboks’ inability to play out the full 80 minutes has been targeted as an area of potential weakness as the Wallabies look to break their TriNations duck in Saturday’s Test in Brisbane.

The Springboks have been impressive for most of the season, but their sluggishness in the final quarter, not helped by the coach Peter de Villliers’s unnecessary substitutions, has often knocked some of the gloss from their victories.

Former All Black coach John Mitchell, in handing out the jerseys to the Boks in Perth last Friday, emphasised the need for John Smit’s team to keep playing for the full 80 minutes. But the next day the familiar problems resurfaced in the closing 10 mi­nutes as De Villiers cleared his bench, the Springbok scrum wilted under the pressure — from both the Wallabies and a pedantic referee — and the two late Australian tries turned a potentially embarrassing 32-13 defeat into a seven-point, 32-25 loss.

The Australians now aim to test the Boks’ stamina and focus by playing an even faster game by upping the intensity of their game. Coach Robbie Deans has included two tearaway loose forwards (George Smith and David Pocock) in his backrow in an attempt to pressure the Boks at the breakdown.

By playing a high tempo, ball-in-the-hand game, the Wallabies hope to limit the number of line-outs, shift the big Bok forwards around the field, expose them at scrum time, and then take advantage in the closing quarter when the South Africans start puffing.

That, anyway, is the theory and the Springboks will be attempting to break their rhythm by cutting off their flow of possession at source.

Springbok captain John Smit is aware of the Wallaby threat.

“Of all the teams we play against, Australia are the one side that will never stop playing. They’ll bring that same tough mental application for the full 80 minutes. We’ve had a big focus on defence this week, we don’t want to leak too many tries and we can’t have lapses in concentration. We saw that in Perth when Matt Giteau came back from a shaky start and gave his team some opportunity at the end,” Smit said.

One Springbok who is particularly keen to win on Saturday is athletic number eight Pierre Spies, who made his Test debut at the Suncorp Stadium in 2006.

On that day the Boks suffered a humiliating 49-0 thrashing at the hands of the Wallabies when Jake White was still the Bok coach.

“I remember it well,” Spies told News24. “I made my debut along with Akona Ndungane in that game. It was just one of those nights when we really did not know what was happening. The Aussies cut the line at will. It has been a while since then and our team has reached a different level in recent times,” Spies said.

According to the powerful No. 8, the team is not even thinking of that game anymore and the focus is now on enjoying the rugby.

“All we want to do is to improve on our weaknesses and strengths. I am always keen on growing and just getting better, fulfilling my role in the team and trying to become the best I can be.”

Spies, a former wing, made his name by scoring spectacular tries, but he knows that is only rarely possible in Test rugby.

“In Test rugby, defences are tight and you don’t always get the opportunity to score spectacular tries. As a forward, I enjoy doing the hard work and getting my hands dirty as well.”

Spies believes the Boks will have their work cut out against the revamped Wallaby backrow.

“Juan (Smith) and Heinrich (Brüssow) and I, will just have to work together as a unit, get the balance right and try to complement each other.

“Everybody is going to try to make a step up and climb in at the breakdowns and try to steal balls. Sometimes it comes off and other times it doesn’t. Last weekend was a good result and we will just have to build on that,” he added.

Saturday’s Test kicks off at 12 noon.

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