iafrica.com columnist BJ Botha admits that the Boks were fortunate to get away with a draw against Argentina and believes they need to be a lot more accurate as they begin their Australasian tour this week.
The Springboks left Mendoza with a draw, but it could have been worse.
The game was very physical and from Argentina’s side they really upped their game on that front. They really wanted to target us at the breakdown and try and chop the big guys, so they could get into the breakdown and slow down the ball.
It was obviously really frustrating for us as we were unable to get quick ball to lay the platform to work off. We really struggled to get over that and things were compounded when we found ourselves losing the territorial battle as well as Morne’s kicking not being up to his usual high standards.
We battled to relieve the pressure and then they scored a well worked try which a lot of their players contributed to, but I thought they were a bit fortunate as the angle of the “gut pass”, which was the final pass, was a bit obstructed and caught the defence unawares. This did not help the Boks cause at all as the crowd built momentum and fuelled themselves off that try. We struggled to silence the crowd from then on which also kept the Pumas fired up and it just got more difficult for us as the game moved on and we started to make bad decisions under pressure…. Fortunately for us, Fransie got the charge down or we may have suffered our first loss to them.
We have to look at the all-round performance of the side and the only players who put their hands up were Etzebeth and to a certain extent Fransie. The Boks were matched at the breakdown, which we usually aren’t, we were poor at cleaning out and were unable to get clean ball. Chances were minimal for our backline because were hardly had the ball and a lot of our strengths were minimised…
A lack of accuracy
A lot of criticism has been levelled at Morne Steyn over the kicking game of the Boks.
We’ve seen in world rugby how important it is to retrieve your kicks. A kick is not so much just to win the territorial battle, kicking is becoming like a pass with the little chip kicks over the defence, the grubbers… A kick like that needs accuracy. A kick like that in open space, when your defences are broken up, can be incredibly dangerous if you do not have the systems in place to react off a counterattack. We gave Argentina perfect opportunities to attack us as they wanted our defence to be broken, they didn’t want to take on at set defence.
You may find Heyneke Meyer will look at a guy like Ruan Pienaar now because of his strong kicking game, which does take a lot of pressure of Morne. It is purely accuracy. It is a massive part of the game these days and I don’t think we need to look too in depth, we just need the accuracy. We need to ensure that we are accurate in both the kick and the chase, because a kick is only as good as the chase.
I have heard great things about Johan Goosen – I have never seen him play – but it sounds like he is the future, while Duane has shown he deserves his chance. Obviously you want these guys to have game time, and make them play, but the Boks possibly want to have them on call at all times, possibly a little bit selfish, which is perfectly fine, but we will need to see how he uses them going forward.
However, you don’t want them to simply become tourists, because they may begin to lag behind in game fitness and that will only have a negative effect on them. They are interesting selections and we will need to see how they develop going forward, but nobody can be picked as certain starters, so it is all new faces. Obviously Francois Louw has come in to correct the balance of the loose forwards, which got a bit of a slating in the media.
The breakdown is set by the ball carrier and he needs to get over the advantage line. That was one of the big problems against the Pumas as those big boys got chopped and that makes it incredibly difficult for somebody cleaning. We need to look at the make-up of the back row as the breakdown is such an important area in rugby. If Francois can come in and add some stability, particularly from a breakdown perspective, we will go forward with that, however I think the loose forward berth is wide open at the moment and its all who will now take the next step to make that jersey there own.
The pressure is on
One thing for sure is we need a win in the next two games overseas. We have made it incredibly difficult for ourselves as the foot will already be on the throat after the draw to Argentina – and the failure to pick up a bonus point at home – and now looking at going overseas, the pressure will be on.
The Australian and the New Zealand media will jump on the team, we’re coming off a tour against the eighth best team in the world and could only manage a draw. It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks going forward and the results will speak for themselves and will give us an idea of what the future holds.
We know that we need to win and the next couple of weeks will be massively important for the team going forward.
BJ’s weekend predictions:
Australia v South Africa: It’s going to be a tough battle in Perth as the Boks try to get there Championship back on track, but they won’t have a better chance at beating an unsettled Australian outfit in Western Australia. The Boks have their back against the wall and there is no side that reacts better to this than them. Springboks 21-16
Argentina v New Zealand: Argentina will know what is needed from them to even have a chance of getting close to the number one side in the world and even with Graham Henry’s influence I think they will be blown away. All Blacks 32-10