Breakdown battle key

2014-11-11 00:00

ENGLISH captain Chris Robshaw and his partners in crime, Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola, made strong statements at the breakdown against the All Blacks last weekend and the Springboks have taken notice.

Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan singled out the battle in the engine room as the most crucial part of their upcoming clash with England at Twickenham. However, the Boks will also have to sharpen up on their work at the breakdown, as Robshaw and company will be looking to slow down the Boks’ momentum.

Coming off a shock 29-15 loss to the Irish on Saturday, the Springboks have taken a good look at their performance and have admitted falling well short in terms of handling and execution.

Luckily the Boks have a clean bill of health after a good old Irish brawl, although the good doctor Jannie du Plessis has to visit a dentist to check out a fractured tooth, according to Bok doctor Craig Roberts.

Smarting from their loss, Van Graan pointed to the statistics suggesting that Northern Hemisphere teams are tougher in the tight phases.

“There were 96 breakdowns on our side and we lost five while Ireland had 60 breakdowns and also lost five, so it was a massive battle at the breakdown. Teams in the North Hemisphere kick the ball a bit more and they make it more of a fight,” he said.

“Just going back to what we do, your breakdown starts with your carrier. Our carriers need to dominate the advantage line and then the reaction speed of the cleaners needs to be sharp.”

The Boks fell short in that regard and both Teboho Mohoje and Victor Matfield failed to get over the advantage line a number of times, which stifled the Bok attack. That was compounded by the dogged Irish defence that didn’t take a step backwards.

“There were too many handling errors and we were not clinical enough and it’s something we are going to work on this weekend. It was a proper Test match and both teams made mistakes, there was a lot of pressure. Another valuable lesson — it’s not the amount of possession and territory you have, it’s what you do with it,” Van Graan said.

The assistant coach was impressed with the English lineout success rate as well as their scrum against the All Blacks. They managed to score a penalty try from a scrum late in the match to give the score line (24-21) a more flattering look.

Luckily, the Boks’ scrums and lineouts were probably the best they’ve have been all season, which is a positive going up against a strong and heavy English pack. It is what they do with the ball after the set piece that is now a concern.

“I thought we created a lot of opportunities and didn’t finish them. We made too many mistakes in the first half, especially five metres away from the try-line. I thought in the second half we got back in the game but we conceded a yellow card and looking back we could have handled it better,” Van Graan added.

Other than getting the end of year tour back on track, the Boks know that a win over World Cup hosts England is crucial going into the global showpiece next year.

The Springboks take on England at Twickenham on Saturday. Kick-off is at 4.30 pm.

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