Boks need to ‘sharpen up’ for Wales clash

2014-11-24 00:00

THE Italians always seem a tough nut to crack but the Springboks made hard work of their hosts on Saturday, grinding out a 22-6 win in Padova.

A lacklustre first half ended with the Boks having their noses just in front at 8-6 and it was thanks to their replacements, and a couple of debutantes, that the score line looked so flattering at full time.

In what was always going to be an arm wrestle, the Boks struggled to gain continuity at the set pieces in the early stages of the match, and props Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane had a couple of scrums to forget before they found their feet.

Nyakane, who earned his first start, just about weathered the storm before he managed to hold his own. Effective around the park, Nyakane will no doubt grow from his experience this weekend.

Oosthuizen, playing somewhat out of position at tighthead, got shunted a few times by Italy’s stalwart loosehead Martin Castrogiovanni. But the burly Free State prop made up for it with a brilliant barge-over try after a smart running angle. His open-field play has never been doubted and he added plenty of fire to the Boks’ defensive effort.

Despite his try, the Boks struggled to capitalise on a ­number of scoring ­opportunities until coach ­Heyneke Meyer used his bench.

A standout of the day was Western Province flank Nizaam Carr on debut. His work rate was excellent and a short but powerful run saw him slip a pass to scrumhalf Cobus Reinach who dotted down the Boks’ second try. Carr continued to impress in the tight-loose and made some telling contributions on ­defence.

Willie le Roux’s inclusion also sparked the Boks’ attack when he came on to replace Johan Goosen. Goosen ticked the ­boxes in his first Test at fullback and looks set to remain an option there for Meyer after weathering what the coach called a “typical, tactical Test match”.

The Boks were also ­uncharacteristically poor at the lineout, which Meyer put down to trying something new.

“We tried the back ball and it didn’t work, and I think one of our strengths is that we usually score tries when we go for the driving maul. I really want this tour to be about pressure, because that is what you will face at the World Cup,” said Meyer­.

“To miss three lineouts, ­especially with Victor Matfield there, right at the back, is ­unusual and that usually gives us a cushion to build an innings.­Suddenly it didn’t work and we had to grind out a win and came through at the end.”

The breakdowns were also a point of concern and the Boks will have to sharpen up against the likes of Sam Warburton and his Welsh team-mates next weekend.

Proud South African ­supporters will always expect more from the men in green and gold, but Meyer believes ­blooding and testing fringe players is an important part of building an innings towards the World Cup.

“You must always consider that most of the team have never played here. It’s totally different when you play from home in these conditions. It’s a tough crowd, it’s a new environment and most of the guys haven’t even played away from home,” Meyer said.

The Boks face Wales in the ­final Test of their Northern Hemisphere tour.

SCORERS

South Africa 22 (8) — Tries: Coenie Oosthuizen, Cobus Reinach and Bryan Habana; Conversions: Handre Pollard (2); Penalty: Patrick Lambie.

Italy 6 (6) — Penalties: Kelly Haikona 2.

WEEKEND’S TEST RESULTS

France 13 — 18 Argentina

England 28 — 9 Samoa

Wales 16 — 34 New Zealand

Ireland 26 — 23 Australia

Scotland 37 — 12 Tonga.

V ­Heyneke Meyer, Springbok coach

“I really want this tour to be about pressure, because that is what you will face at the World Cup.”

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