Boks need to tweak their tactics

2009-08-29 00:00

THE tweaking of tactics by both the Boks and Wallabies, and the influence of New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence, will have a significant impact on today’s Tri-Nations Test in Perth.

Victory for the Springboks will take Peter de Villiers’s team to within a couple of bonus points of taking the Tri-Nations title; a win for the Australians is essential if they are to stay alive in the competition.

The Springboks have been criticised for their simple but effective kick-and-chase approach, a tactical game tailored to their strengths, and they will say, with some justification, that there is no pleasing some people. Nothing dramatic will change in their approach today, but the Springboks have suggested they are better prepared to attack now they have selected Ruan Pienaar at fullback, a runner who seeks space in preference to the clatter of physical contact, rather than a prodigious kicking Frans Steyn.

Springbok World Cup coach Jake White believes De Villiers’s team need to look beyond the boot of Morne Steyn for victory while playing overseas. The Boks’ territory game, and the fierce pressure they applied, brought a rash of penalties which Morne Steyn gleefully goaled to win the home Tests against the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

White pointed out that visiting teams very rarely win the penalty count, and referee Lawrence, who has frustrated the Springboks and the Sharks in the past, is unlikely to be as generous to the South Africans in handing out penalties as the match officials were at King’s Park and Newlands.

Indeed, Lawrence’s interpretation of the laws at the breakdown — where fetchers Heinrich Brussow and George Smith again go toe-to-toe — and at the scrum, targeted by the Wallabies as an area of potential Springbok weakness, will have a decisive influence on the flow of the game and the eventual outcome.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans made four changes to his line-up with two forced on him by injuries to their influential lock Nathan Sharpe and their astute inside centre Berrick Barnes. He also benched prop Al Baxter and replaced him with Ben Alexander and harped back to the strength of the Wallabies scrum in the final quarter at Newlands where they disrupted the Bok pack.

Veteran lock Mark Chisholm, rushed back as Sharpe’s replacement, has also said the Wallabies will vary their tactics with quick lineouts to counter Victor Matfield and company, who nicked nine of Australia’s throws in Cape Town on their way to a 29-17 win.

Deans admitted they have made changes to their match strategy.

“We have made a plan, it will be different, but whether anyone notices, who knows?” he said yesterday.

Deans has hinted at continuing with an expansive game plan against the Springboks.

”In terms of our personnel, we are confident we can get the job done,” he said.

But the Wallabies, who have had their strong moments and led in all three Tri-Nations Tests this season before losing, are desperate to find a way to add the final winning touches.

The Boks yesterday took the unusual step of asking Western Force and former All Black coach John Mitchell, who was with the Sharks for a fortnight recently, to present the match jerseys. And that will have ruffled feathers in both Australia and New Zealand.

Winning Tests away from home is exceptionally difficult, but the Boks enjoy playing in Perth where they have won their last two Tri-Nations games and enjoy the backing of a large contingent of supporters. With a rich spread of experience throughout the team, in the talent they have in key areas and with a proven match-winner in Morne Steyn, the Boks have a team for all seasons. It will be rough and intense, but this is a Test they really should win.

Wallabies: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Richard Brown, 7 George Smith (capt.), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 David Pocock, 20 Will Genia, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Drew Mitchell.

Springboks: 15 Ruan Pienaar, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (capt.), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Frans Steyn.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence

Kick-off: noon (SA time)

The Springboks have suggested they are better prepared toattack now they have selected Ruan Pienaar at fullback rather than a prodigious kicking Frans Steyn.

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