Pace out wide key to Springbok victory in season opening encounter

2013-06-10 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer’s new recipe for Springbok rugby, and the addition of pace to the traditional fare of forward power and the boot, worked a treat at King’s Park on Saturday evening as his charges romped to a 44-10 win over Italy in their Incoming Tour Series opener.

The Springboks’ outscored the Italians by five tries (four by the outside backs) to one and the abiding memory of the victory — by way of a change — was their pace out wide rather than the physicality of the pack or the boot of Morné Steyn.

The forwards, on the day, did their job and flyhalf Steyn was competent, balanced and accurate in mixing his kicking and passing game, but most refreshing was the attacking mindset of the Springboks’ outside backs, fullback Willie le Roux, wings Bryan Habana and Bjorn Basson, and centre JJ Engelbrecht.

Coach Heyneke Meyer was happy his plan had come together.

“I was very happy with the guys and thought they played well. Willie showed a lot of pace, and so did JJ and Bjorn. It’s great to have extra pace out wide.”

While the backline was crowded with new faces, it was veteran wing Habana who stole the show. Quick to counter, brave and enthusiastic, he created a try for Engelbrecht in the first half and, spectacularly, scored his own in the second.

A smiling Meyer said that, as coach, he would have wanted to take credit for Habana’s rejuvenation.

“Unfortunately, I can’t. All I said to Bryan before the game was go out and express himself. And he did. He was awesome and I was surprised with his pace. He loves playing for the Springboks and the game plan suited him.”

Meyer was also satisfied with the way a new-look, under-prepared team had gelled.

“Considering we only had six players who played against England at Twickenham in the last Test of last season, and we had just three days to prepare, I was happy with the performance.”

He admitted the display was by no means faultless and said the Boks had lost concentration after half-time and allowed Italy back into the game as the tourists closed the deficit from 20 points to 10.

Captain Jean de Villiers said the Boks had made it difficult for themselves after the break when Basson was yellow-carded and they played too much rugby in their own half.

“But we showed character to then finish strongly and score three tries in the closing minutes.”

Meyer said that the Boks also made too many mistakes when hard on attack and Engelbrecht, in an otherwise encouraging display, twice lost the ball on Italy’s line.

Italian captain and number eight Sergio Parisse said that his team had produced “only 25 minutes of the rugby we wanted to play”.

“We did not hold possession in the first half and we kicked badly. This allowed Bryan Habana and Willie le Roux to counter-attack.”

He said his team had improved in the second half when they held the ball and showed that they could place the Springboks under pressure.

“It was then disappointing to let them score those three late tries,” said Parisse.

The Springboks lost scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, who was on debut, to a torn hamstring and Ruan Pienaar replaced him for the last quarter. Bulls scrumhalf Francois Hougaard is also in the squad but Meyer yesterday called up Cheetahs number nine Piet van Zyl.

The uncapped Van Zyl joined the Springboks late yesterday at their base in Hazyview where they are preparing for Saturday’s game against Scotland in Nelspruit.

There are no other injury concerns in the Bok camp while Sharks flank Willem Alberts is expected to be fit after missing the King’s Park game. Arno Botha, Adriaan Strauss, Eben Etzebeth and Francois Louw were the Boks’ most effective forwards.

“I want to try a few guys so there will be a few changes on Saturday,” said Meyer. “But I also want continuity so I will keep the core of the team together.”

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