Springboks put in the hard yards

2014-09-03 00:00

THE last two weeks have seen critics nitpick the Springbok pack’s performance after they were sufficiently shunted by Argentina in Salta.

However, the mood in the Bok camp, which is settling down in Perth, seems to be lighter after a good couple of days of intense scrummaging and set-piece practices. Bok forwards coach Johann van Graan said this week will be less intense with a focus on technical aspects in the engine room.

“We put in the hard yards last week. This week it will all be about the unity of the pack, the front row, the back five and especially our foot positioning, our binds and the space between the front rows,” Van Graan said.

There were whisperings that the Boks might be up against a “soft” Australian pack but Van Graan is not taking the Wallabies lightly. “I think we have a lot of respect for the Wallabies. Throughout Super Rugby the players showed what kind of rugby they can play,” he said.

He was specifically impressed with the way the Australians scrummed in their 12-12 draw with the All Blacks in the opening round of the Rugby Championship. The Wallabies are renowned for their technique in the scrum and Van Graan does not consider them pushovers.

Moving away from the scrum, the talk of the week has also highlighted the importance of the lineout drive. “I think the maul is a big part of the South African game. I think we play the same type of rugby [as the All Blacks]. If there is an opportunity we will maul,” said Van Graan.

He took particular note of the way the All Blacks brought backline players into their mauls in their 51-20 drubbing of Australia two weeks ago. Having not seen teams use that tactic in recent times, Van Graan might have similar ideas for their attacks from the lineout.

The Boks will be missing some serious manpower with the injury-enforced absence of Willem Alberts. However, the return of Victor Matfield may well see the Boks use the lineout drive more. “In my opinion he [Matfield] is one of the best lock forwards that has ever played the game. I think the things that people sometimes miss are the other things he brings. His organisational skills around the field, especially on defence — the way that he organises the guys — his work at kick-off, the lines that he runs and the places on the field where he pops up always seem to be the right place.”

On a personal note, Van Graan wants his charges to front up and produce a scrum that does justice to the Springbok reputation. “In this job you have to take everything personally. I think you’ve also got to have some perspective of what happened in that game [against Argentina]. Yes, our scrum wasn’t up to our standards but the big positive for me was the one that counted. We shoved them off their ball, got the turnover and won the game,” he said.

The Boks are set to announce their side to face Oz today.

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