Boks find their balance

Sort24 columnist Jaco Taute (File)
Sort24 columnist Jaco Taute (File)
For me it was not so much the margin of victory, but rather the manner in which the Boks beat Argentina at Soccer City last weekend that spoke volumes.

Even from the outside looking in, it’s clear to see the team is gelling nicely now and that the players are complementing one another. The Boks are a world-class side and are not ranked second in international rugby for no reason.

Now into the second season under the management of Heyneke Meyer, it’s evident that the Bok game boasts more balance. Most evidently on attack, the majority of the Springboks’ five-pointers on Saturday stemmed from well-constructed backline moves.

In the past, the Boks were renowned for scoring the majority of their tries from driving mauls and from turn-overs or intercepts. Now, however, the national side is scoring tries from a number of different outlets: First phase, multi-phase attacks, mauls and intercepts.

There has also been talk in the Bok camp this week that the side use their defence as an attacking weapon. When a team transitions from attack to defence and visa versa, it’s the point at which they are most vulnerable and is therefore an area which clinical teams target.

The Boks played the game this past Saturday at a speed which the Pumas weren’t able to live with. In addition, the visitors struggled at set-phase and failed to match their hosts physically.

Although it was a below-par performance from the Pumas, for me there were enough signs to suggest that the Springboks will challenge strongly for the 2013 Rugby Championship.

As professional teams and rugby players, the aim is to continually improve and add elements to one’s game. The current Bok side is showing an appetite for evolution.

After such a convincing win, it’s difficult to pinpoint areas in which the Boks can improve. However, I believe they will continue their work at the breakdown, which is a major focus for the side this season.

While the return leg in Mendoza this Saturday is likely to prove more competitive, the mental scars which the Pumas will carry with them, subconsciously, will be significant.

Even though the home side can take heart from the fact that the Boks have never won in Mendoza, I believe the current Bok side is an altogether different proposition.

In fact, the Boks’ disappointing 16-all draw in 2012 will serve to motivate the class of 2013.

While I’m not in Buenos Aires with the boys, I can tell you that one of the Boks’ main goals this year is to beat Argentina - and their Australasian foes - away from home.

Away wins are crucial in this competition and separate the pretenders from the contenders.

The All Blacks’ win in Sydney was big for them and while it set the tone for the tournament, I believe the Boks should respect the All Blacks rather than put them on a pedestal.

The All Blacks play an extremely well-balanced brand of rugby. Their execution is precise and their skills on attack are impressive. However, I believe the Springboks possess sufficient talent to challenge any team in world rugby.

Turning to this Saturday’s encounter, my sense is that Argentina will focus on a tactical game and make greater use of the boot.

I also believe that the Pumas will play negative rugby by attempting to slow down the Boks’ ball at the breakdown, in an effort to limit the damage.

If this proves to be the case, the Boks will have to stay patient and disciplined and wait for their opportunities to strike.

While some suggest the Pumas would be better served fighting fire with fire on attack, I don’t see them employing this approach.

Even though it should prove a tighter encounter than the side’s previous Test, I’m backing the Boks to win by a minimum of 20 points.

Jaco Taute earned his Springbok debut in 2012 and has played four Tests for his country. Follow him on Twitter @JacoTaute

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