Springboks

Five things the Boks need to avoid ahead of Wales exam

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Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)
Jacques Nienaber. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)
  • The Springboks could and should see off Wales in next month's three-Test series but must also tick certain boxes when doing so.
  • Wales hasn't won a Test in South Africa but have, at times,  asked pressing questions of the Boks at home and on neutral turf.
  • While they aren't in the best shape after a poor Six Nations, Wales can't be underestimated.


The Springboks have on paper what looks to be the easiest Southern Hemisphere assignment in the form of hosting Wales.

England is in Australia for what promises to be a tight series while New Zealand are hosting Ireland.

Wales have never won a Test in South Africa and lost four out of their five Six Nations matches recently. 

The Springboks, who will be playing in front of a home crowd for the first time at Loftus Versfeld next week, should see off the Dragons.

However, these are the things they need to watch out for.

Taine Basham

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi was effusive in his praise of the loose-forward when the Boks beat Wales in Cardiff last year for the first time since 2013.

Basham had just returned from a long-term injury and asked serious questions from a breakdown and support-running perspective.

Basham, though, has question marks hanging over his head, starting with how Wales coach Wayne Pivac has shown confidence in him being selected ahead of in-form Ospreys loose-forward Jac Morgan.

At 95kg, he's on the smaller side and tends to be injury-prone, but he is also a wonderfully effective player.

Basham will have a point to prove and will have to do so against the world champions.

Over-confidence

None of the Welsh sides in the United Rugby Championship came close to upsetting the South African applecart.

Only the Scarlets and Cardiff recorded wins against South African opposition and when they were in South Africa, they were generally swept off the park.

However, franchise form has never been an indicator of the excellence of a national team, with Australia's rag-tag franchises often cobbling up enough players for a competitive national team.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has repeatedly warned about complacency and not taking the Welsh lightly.

Recent results will indeed point to that, but some will have seen off Welsh URC threats and feel there's nothing to lose sleep over.

Tactical inflexibility

The Boks have every weapon in their rugby attacking arsenal, but how they use them, or the infrequency of their use, has been a problem.

The Boks' outside backs at times act as auxiliary loose forwards instead of the white-hot attackers they are.

When a forward challenge has been quashed, the backs haven't been given full attacking license to kill off a game.

This points to tactical inflexibility that needs to be sorted out, especially in Tshwane and Mangaung, where conditions will allow for running rugby.

Boks' inability to clean out opposition

This facet is a direct result of the backs not being given enough attacking license once the forwards have secured dominance.

This was evident in the two games against New Zealand last year and the entirety of the end-of-year tour where backline moves seemed to be a unicorn at the end of a fairy-tale book.

When the All Blacks were at the absolute peak of their powers, they made everyone know and feel there were world champions by taking them to the cleaners with a mixture of pace, power, and precision.

The Springboks are renowned for their forward dominance, but their inability to translate it into massive points means teams are always in the contest.

The incorrect mix of youth and experience

What the URC season has done is to add selectorial pressure on Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus.

Breakout players like Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw have asked the right questions, but how do they fit into the Bok puzzle with only 18 Tests left until the World Cup?

This is where the correct mix of youth and experience should come in.

Results can and will remain important for the Bok head-honchos, but so will the need to ensure depth and correct form pecking orders are established.

The Welsh series provides a perfect opportunity to do this but will require the smartest of juggling acts to pull it off.


 

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