Boks need a spark to turn sophisticated kicking game into something more

2009-08-10 00:00

THE Springboks should have buried the Wallabies at Newlands on Saturday, but instead ended up praising the Australians for their committed showing under severe pressure.

The Boks emerged 29-17 victors on Saturday evening and are comfortably placed at the top of the Tri-Nations log with 12 points to New Zealand’s four and Australia’s one.

Bok captain John Smit paid tribute to the Australians and their admirable fighting spirit.

The Australians had flyhalf Matt Giteau and flank Richard Brown sin-binned, reducing them to 13 men. Gitau made a dangerous tackle on Fourie du Preez and Brown committed a professional foul at the breakdown.

“They played incredibly clever rugby when they were two players short,” said Smit of the Australian effort, which denied the Boks a try in that period.

Smit, a prop standing at flyhalf, helped break the Wallaby resistance with a cheeky grubber kick, which resulted in lock Victor Matfield scoring the home side’s only try.

Smit, chuffed with his effort, explained to anyone who would listen that he had to grubber “because the option of the drop wasn’t on”.

On a more serious note, he said the Springbok game was built on discipline — “and we take pride in being accurate at the breakdown and this forces the other team to transgress.”

Coach Peter de Villiers also praised the Wallabies “for playing bravely and not allowing us to play” when they had 13 men.

De Villiers, while happy with the Springboks’ win, said he is still looking for more from his players. One hopes that more cohesion on attack is top of his wish list.

De Villiers wisely refused to accept that the Boks already have one hand on the Tri-Nations trophy.

“It is half-time now in terms of our campaign, and in the same way we struggled after half-time in this specific Test, we could struggle after half-time in this campaign.

“These home results won’t help us on tour, but we do believe we are good enough to step up to the challenge of winning away from home.

“As a coach you are never satisfied and you can always get better. I was pleased with how we operated as a team. We’ve come a long way and have built trust within this group and that showed in this win. I’m also pleased with the way we played under pressure in the second half. The Wallabies didn’t allow us to get into our pattern, yet we managed to score some crucial points.”

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans was singing from the hymn sheet used by Graham Henry just a week ago when he said that discipline and poor execution had cost his team.

“There were too many errors and the penalties and yellow cards certainly makes it a lot harder,” said Deans.

“Some of our defence was good to take care of those circumstances [yellow cards] and after the injury [knee cartilage] to Stirling Mortlock the boys stepped out and turned around to win the second half, which was a pretty good response under duress.

“The Boks also converted seven penalties and that makes life very difficult, even though we scored two tries to one.”

Deans had no criticisms of referee Alain Rolland’s three yellow cards and indeed Giteau could well be cited for his dangerous challenge, which flattened Fourie du Preez.

The Wallaby coach said he was encouraged by his team’s scrummaging, their defence and their handling of the many high kicks from the Springboks.

It has been a remarkable home run for De Villiers and his Springboks, with victory over the British Lions followed by three successive Saturday wins over the toughest teams in world rugby, the All Blacks and Wallabies.

No one should quibble with that excellent record, although nagging away is the feeling that this talented team of powerful runners has far more to offer than a sophisticated kicking game, even if the approach is effective, even if it is difficult to counter. It just needs a spark — and not from their burly tighthead prop standing at flyhalf.

Page 18: More Springboks.

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