Finding the winning formula

Sport24 columnist Alan Solomons (File)
Sport24 columnist Alan Solomons (File)
Two Springboks on the opposite end of their Test careers, shone brightest this past weekend.

Test veteran Bryan Habana returned to his potent best, while 21-year-old debutant Arno Botha slotted in seamlessly.

Habana flourished in a Bok backline that seemed intent on giving the ball more air. The 84-Test veteran mixed pace with precision during one of his finest displays in the green and gold jersey.

Habana clearly relishes Test rugby, which seems to bring out the best in him. I agree with Heyneke Meyer’s assessment that he looked like a player rejuvenated. Such an experienced campaigner can reach his saturation point in Super Rugby and thus the international scene represents a welcome respite.

Habana showcased his pace, stellar running lines, his ability in the air and on the chase. He formed a potent part of an exciting back three, which will further blossom.

The Boks are clearly intent on expanding their attacking game and this quadrangular series represents the opportune time to do so. A ball-in-hand approach is part of the Boks’ development so that they are capable of employing a number of different styles, which they can then adjust in order to suit the particular occasion. For example, the opposition, referee or weather conditions.

While Habana deserved the man of the match award, Botha exemplified the Boks’ forward effort.

The blindside flank is a natural athlete and in my view, already the complete package. The young Bull is tall, balanced and quick. He offers an excellent lineout option, his work-rate is second to none and he is a forceful ball-carrier and defender.

This past weekend, Scotland struggled to stop the Samoans’ momentum on attack. While they are always a courageous and committed side, they tend to struggle to subdue sides defensively. With the likes of Botha in the Boks’ armoury, the Scots are set to be in for an even tougher day at the office.

While it remains to be seen whether Scotland prove to be the weakest side this series, in my opinion, there is very little separating the three visiting sides and South Africa are clearly a cut above the rest.

While the Boks were full value for their 44-10 win over Italy, their point of focus in training this week will to be even more clinical come Saturday. Their scrums fired in the first half and faded in the second, while their re-starts left a lot to be desired.

While Heyneke has hinted at a few changes this weekend, I believe he will largely retain the spine of the side. The spine of any side is literally your No 2, 8, 9, 10 and 15.

The key is striking a balance between improving our strength in depth and retaining a measure of consistency which facilitates performance. I believe Heyneke will find the winning formula.

While Scotland will put up a brave fight on Saturday, the Springboks will hit their straps to overpower their visitors in all facets of the game. I’m backing the Boks to win by at least 20 points.

Alan Solomons was assistant coach to Nick Mallett when the Springboks went 17 Tests unbeaten. He is currently EP Kings’ Director of Rugby and is a consultant to the IRB.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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