Physical Schalk set to focus on Bok defence

2009-06-25 00:00

THE Springboks, or at least their coaches, are looking to returning flank Schalk Burger to help solve their midfield defensive problems in the second Test against the British Lions at Loftus on Saturday.

The Lions centre pairing of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts breached the Bok midfield on a number of occasions while they were never seriously tested on attack.

Bok assistant coach Gary Gold said Burger will be part of the plan to improve the defence by providing support for Ruan Pienaar, Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs.

“There was an element of rustiness about our defence in Durban, which we are working hard on this week. Schalk, and the physical aspect he brings, will also make a massive difference,” said Gold.

Gold told reporters that Burger was always first-choice, “but we just didn’t want to risk him last week”.

“Now he’s ready to go. Heinrich Brüssow has really put his hand up this season and it will help having him covering from the bench, especially since Schalk hasn’t played for a while.”

Burger said that he had been told that he had to concentrate his efforts on making a difference at the breakdowns.

“If I can make an impact there, the team will benefit hugely.”

He has also to provide support on defence in covering the inside channel.

“Roberts and O’Driscoll are very good and they take some stopping, but we pride ourselves on our defence and I think we let ourselves down in that department at King’s Park in the second half. I’m keen to do my part to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Springbok wing Bryan Habana echoed the view and said that a repeat of last week’s second-half showing would see the Lions winning the second Test.

Habana said the Boks were below the defensive standards they set.

“We knew we had a lot to do in that final quarter and we let ourselves down,” Habana told the media.

“The boys are aware that we let ourselves down and are determined to make those improvements.”

Bok captain John Smit said the lapse in the second half in Durban will not be repeated.

“The Test was a game of two halves, and a very tight Test. We lost concentration and that is something we want to change.”

Smit said a number of factors were behind the slump and said the players’ lack of game time was a major reason.

“But it was also an enormous occasion. It was everything I expected and more and it certainly lived up to the hype. A lot of guys were swept up by emotion, and I’m sure now that the first Test is done both camps will be a lot more calm and composed.”

Smit said the Boks would benefit from the 80 minutes together and the tension of the last 15 minutes had reminded them how dangerous the Lions team was.

“There were mistakes, but it was often the case of the team not sticking to the structure.”

Of course, a major reason for the Boks not staying with their shape and structure was the wholesale use of substitutes in the closing quarter. But Smit, for obvious reasons, stayed clear of that minefield.

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