Rugby Championship

Springboks 'could have made better decisions' says assistant coach as Kolbe returns

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Springboks' Faf de Klerk kicks the ball against the All Blacks
Springboks' Faf de Klerk kicks the ball against the All Blacks
Chris Hyde/Getty Images
  • Springbok assistant Deon Davids admitted that the players' decision-making could've been better in the latter stages of the past weekend's thriller against the All Blacks.
  • South Africa squandered at least two gilt-edged opportunities in the final 10 minutes that could've buried the old enemy, only for the halfbacks to kick possession away.
  • Cheslin Kolbe's potential return from injury, however, would add substantial attacking punch to the Boks' game.

Despite head coach Jacques Nienaber's insistence that the Springboks' general game-plan works perfectly well, one of his lieutenants, Deon Davids, admitted that some of the team's decision-making could've been better in the past weekend's loss to the All Blacks.

South Africa had a rare victory within their grasp in the agonising 17-19 loss to the old enemy in Townsville, twice undermining realistic try-scoring opportunities in the final ten minutes with almost reflex-like kicking from the halfback pairing of Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard.

In fact, the Boks have distinctly lacked composure in the latter stages of their recent matches in terms of maximising points on the board and even preventing opposition of taking advantage.

"We've looked in-depth at our game-management in the last 10 minutes," Davids said on Monday, ahead of Saturday's Rugby Championship climax on the Gold Coast.

"We looked at it and we were first to say that maybe we could've made better decisions at some stage in terms of what happens.

"We also know that there are different reasons why things went wrong and it has to do with communication and being able to make a split-second decision on what’s in front of you."

Indeed, if there were mitigating circumstances for the Boks, it would be that they had a flyhalf and, to a lesser extent, a scrumhalf who have been subjected to substantial criticism for their attacking play and, particularly in Pollard's case, have had to found a way to keep things going while dealing with compromised confidence.

"You must understand the players are under tremendous pressure. It was a Test with a lot at stake at the end, there was a lot of intensity," said Davids.

"We would've learnt lessons from that, but the quality of our players and their experience means they'll understand what we can do better. We know they’ll respond."

South Africa's attacking prowess should receive a major boost as it's expected that Cheslin Kolbe will be featuring in some form after recovering from a leg injury sustained during the quarantine period in Australia.

Davids didn't mention the world-class winger by name, but made it clear that only flanker Marco van Staden didn't train on Monday.

"The only player injured at this stage is Marco," he said.

"He sustained an shoulder injury and didn’t take part in training. The rest of the players were all able to train on Monday and all of them are in consideration for selection this week." 

But is there a way to improve the players' application of the grey matter without having to rely solely on high-stakes encounters against the No 1 ranked team in world rugby?

"Obviously, we try and paint secnarios of what we can expect from past experiences at training. We then expose the players to that and challenge them to take better decisions. There are a lot of things that go with that," said Davids.

"Sometimes it's a good decisions and the execution was simply lacking. Sometimes the decision is wrong.

"The more you put players into scenarios and ask them to use the width of the field with your system, the better. The players must work towards something like (a ball-in-hand scoring opportunity). The more they play together, the better decisions they'll make."

The Springboks name their match-squad on Tuesday. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24