Boks feel pressure up north

2014-11-19 00:00

MOST pundits would favour the Springboks to win any battle at the breakdown, but the Northern Hemisphere tour has proved they always need to be sharp in that area.

The Boks had a much improved performance against Eng­land this weekend but it took a shock defeat at the hands of Ireland the week before to get that right.

Springbok coaching consultant Richie Gray put their win at Twickenham down to the hard work and soul searching in the camp following their loss to Ireland.

Gray believes the difference in the preparation between the two weeks was crucial. He also said that although the breakdown stats from the Irish game were actually favourable to the Boks, it did not reflect in the way they played or the result.

“It wasn’t dominant, it wasn’t accurate and it wasn’t up to the standard that we’ve put forward. A lot of work was done last week as you saw — koppestamp I think is the correct name for it,” Gray said.

“I think we had to get it out of the system and get back to what we were doing so well in the last couple of years. We’ve worked really hard collectively and individually in that area and I thought we got it right on Saturday and got back to where we were. The intensity and accuracy was right,” he added.

His thoughts ring true when looking at the Boks performance against England. The Bok pack was quick to hit rucks and gave scrumhalf Cobus Reinach plenty of clean, quick ball that allowed him to play without added pressure, unlike an under-fire Francois Houggard the week before.

Young flank Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje was at the coalface against Ireland and admits that the conditions and playing style is a far cry from what he is used to back in South Africa.

“The breakdown is a lot different and the conditions are a lot wetter. The players focus more on rucks. If you are not quick enough they will spoil your ball,” Mohoje said.

He was also subjected to a bruising Irish defence, which served as his welcome to rugby up north.

“It is more physical and I think it is because it’s a bit wet so the forwards play much closer and tighter,” he said.

Despite the change of style, many younger Springboks need to soak up as much experience in those conditions looking toward the World Cup in England this time next year.

But Mohoje believes he and the other junior players will do well to focus on their performances now as that will put them in good stead ahead of the global showpiece.

“It obviously is very important. You play like it’s your last game because you never know when that might be. But the main focus is on the coming games and not the World Cup,” Mohoje said.

“If you do your part in these coming games, the coach will make his decision come the time so we should take it a game at a time and see what happens in the future.”

The Boks take on Italy on Saturday in Padova. Kick-off is at 4 pm.

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