Rugby World Cup: Springboks select physical side to counter dynamic, improving Samoans

2011-09-29 00:00

SO far it has been a very good Rugby World Cup for South Africa both on the field and off it. While they narrowly overcame Wales in their first game, the Welsh have since proved a powerful side and are one of the northern hemisphere’s top teams at the tournament.

The Boks were certainly underdone coming into the tournament, but they have improved their play as the tournament has progressed.

I think South Africa face a strong challenge against Samoa tomorrow. The Samoans have really improved their set-pieces and play with a lot more structure. This is allied to their physical prowess and explosiveness. They are a very dynamic side and I trust it will be a very physical game, with the Samoans going all out to qualify.

The Boks need to get past Samoa before they start thinking of the play-offs. Their strategy will be to play for field position and hold on to the ball in the right parts of the field. It will be a direct, confrontational approach from the Boks and they are likely to set about breaking down Samoa’s defence.

The Boks, with Bismarck du Plessis a notable starter, have selected a very physical side. John Smit hasn’t played badly in the pool stages, but if Bismarck has another blinder the selectors will have a tough decision to make heading into the play-offs.

When Victor Matfield returns he will resume control of the lineouts and Danie Rossouw will take on Bakkies Botha’s role as the tighter of the two locks. He will provide plenty of scrummaging power, physicality and ball carrying. Rossouw will relish the physicality and we can expect another big performance from him.

In terms of the loose trio, I would never leave out Heinrich Brüssow or Schalk Burger, so it comes down to what type of No. 8 you prefer. Pierre Spies has a lot more pace around the park than Willem Alberts, but the latter is more bruising on defence.

Spies has been on the front foot for most of the games thus far, but question marks remain over his defence in the tighter games. I think Spies primarily gets the nod because of an all-Bulls nexus at eight, nine and 10.

Frans Steyn has played very well and is now the incumbent at inside centre. Jean de Villiers’s return to the bench adds more depth to the side as he can cover both centre and wing. Having a strong bench coming on in the second half makes a huge difference. People are starting to appreciate the value of 22 players.

Francois Hougaard has made a huge difference as an impact player and gives the Boks the option of going for the 5/2 forwards-to-backs split on the bench.

The All Blacks have also made very good use of their bench. They’ve always been liberal as far as that goes, have adopted the right policy and have given everyone game time.I still see them as the team to beat.

Ireland’s win over Australia points to the type of tactics many sides will employ in the play-offs. They had a focus on shutting down the Australians forwards, thereby blunting their dangerous backs.

Australia are very much a team that thrive on momentum. By targeting their set-pieces and fracturing their initial possession, the Irish made life very challenging for them. That game was a useful example of the correct strategy that can be applied to break down the southern hemisphere sides.

In terms of tactical ploys, there is no doubt that the drop goal is still seen as a major weapon. It’s a ploy that is likely to be of great benefit heading into the tighter play-off matches.

 

Springbok team:

15 - Patrick Lambie, 14 - JP Pietersen, 13 - Jaque Fourie, 12 - Frans Steyn, 11 - Bryan Habana, 10 - Morne Steyn, 9 - Fourie du Preez, 8 - Pierre Spies, 7 - Schalk Burger, 6 - Heinrich Brussow, 5 - Victor Matfield (c), 4 - Danie Rossouw, 3 - Jannie du Plessis, 2 - Bismarck du Plessis, 1 - Beast Mtawarira. Reserves: John Smit, CJ van der Linde, Gurthro Steenkamp, Willem Alberts, Francois Hougaard, Jean de Villiers.

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