Boks need to focus on breakdown and defence, says Matfield

2010-07-23 00:00

WHILE Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is in denial after two Test thumpings in New Zealand, his players have at least faced up to reality as they go in search of victory in the Tri-Nations Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane tomorrow.

De Villiers has continued to argue that the Boks’ loss in Wellington last weekend was because of the inconsistent refereeing. Many thousands of South African rugby supporters will have seen for themselves that the Boks lacked hunger — in contesting the breakdown and in making tackles — the technical nous and, above all, the pace to match the All Blacks.

De Villiers said he will not have a problem raising the morale of his troops for the Brisbane Test.

“I don’t think that will be difficult. After we analysed the match against the All Blacks, it was a mystery to me how we lost. We really played well,” he told surprised reporters.

Not for the first time reporters had to turn to the players for a dose of common sense and yesterday it was vice captain Victor Matfield who provided it.

Matfield said there had been many areas where the Boks had failed in New Zealand, with defence and the breakdown the chief concerns.

And you have only to glance at the statistics to confirm his view.

The Boks, in conceding four tries in Auckland and another four in Wellington, gave away bonus points for tries for the first time since 2002 as the All Blacks won quick ball from the breakdown and attacked at pace.

“We need to do everything better, but the two areas we have to focus on are the breakdown and our defence,” Matfield said.

“You beat the All Blacks by keeping them under pressure. Once you give them momentum from the breakdown, they are very difficult to stop.”

Matfield conceded that the referee’s interpretaion of the breakdown was important.

“It’s very important to adapt to the referee because there are always little things on the day that are different. Both teams play under the same laws and it’s about who adapts quickest.”

Matfield also defended the Boks’ tactical approach, one based on structure and kicking for territory, and said that the Stormers and the Bulls had been successful in the Super 14 using that recipe.

“It’s still about field position and putting the other team under pressure and we just haven’t been doing that right.

“We need to get our confidence back and show that we can play this game,” Matfield said.

The tall lock also said that the Boks have no problem with discipline, ­despite the sin-binning of Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw in the two All Black Tests.

“I think the general discipline of the team has been good. We conceded only five or six penalties in the first Test and I think just nine in Auckland. There were just a couple of stupid things that were out of character that cost us,” Matfield said.

Meanwhile, Percy Montgomery, the Boks’ kicking coach, is advising the players to keep the ball in hand against the Wallabies, adding that the basics had been neglected in New Zealand.

“It’s little things here and there, but the end result is not good,” Montgomery told reporters.

“I want us to kick less against the Wallabies and carry the ball more. The kicks will also have to be a lot better than has been the case up to now,” says Montgomery.

“The second week was much better. We pointed it out to the players after the Test in Auckland, and the statistics from the second Test shows how much better we were.”

Montgomery said there also has to be an improvement in chasing the kicks.

“The chase of the kick is just as important and that is another area in which I expect a major improvement. It cannot be measured by statistics. It’s an attitude and I’m happy that we are improving. We could get away with it against Italy, but not against the All Blacks. We have to go back to the basics.”

The former Bok fullback said that defence remains critical and the Boks are not making “the big tackles” that were once part of their game.

He is convinced that the Boks have the necessary talent at fullback.

“We have someone like Frans Steyn playing in France and he can still return for the World Cup. We also have Zane Kirchner and Gio Aplon.”

Tomorrow’s Test kicks off at 12 noon (SA time).

Peter de Villiers: It’s a conspiracy, page 24.

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