You could almost imagine that Jean de Villiers was one of the Springbok critics or fans talking when he was asked to look ahead to Saturday’s Vodacom Tri-Nations match against Australia at Absa Stadium and pinpoint what needed to be changed.
“It is important for us to stop playing too much rugby in our half. We have been playing a hell of a lot of rugby in our own half, and although there have been scoring opportunities that we have created, it is has not helped us,” said De Villiers.
“It is difficult, because last year we won the World Cup playing conservative rugby by kicking the ball when we were in our own half and only running it when we were in attacking positions. People said that we were playing rugby that is unwatchable. But at this level it is about winning, and in the Tri-Nations so far we have seen that it is the team that kicks the most that wins.
“Tactical kicking has played a big role in determining the results of all the games that have been played so far. The All Blacks have kicked the most of any team in the competition, and they top the Tri-Nations log. That does not mean that the rugby has to be boring or unattractive, just that the attacks must come when the attack is on.”
Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that De Villiers said that a more pragmatic strategy would not mitigate against the Bok chances of scoring the four tries they would need to obtain the bonus point that would keep them in the Tri-Nations race if they beat the Wallabies in the Durban match.
“When I was captaining the Stormers in the last Super 14 match against the Lions we found to our cost that playing all out running rugby does not on its own bring results. I don’t think it would be a risk for us to look at scoring four tries, for attacking rugby is not always just about running the ball. Field position is important, and playing a structured game.
“If you keep to your structures for the first part of the match, then often you will find that in the last 15 to 20 minutes the game opens up and you have an opportunity to score the tries that you need. It is important though to build a platform first, you have to play off a platform, for the defensive lines of the All Blacks and Australia have just been too good.”
De Villiers said he had been encouraged by the Springbok scrumming last week, and this gave him confidence in his team’s ability to win on Saturday if they stuck to a structured approach.
“The scrumming has been fantastic in the last few weeks (also against Argentina), the forwards have given the backline a fantastic platform to play off,” said De Villiers.
Structure, which has been too often absent from the Bok play this season, of course could also play a big part in solving the problem at the breakdowns, where the South Africans have been found wanting recently.
De Villiers agreed that the solution lay in a collective effort, and was not founded on the notion that it was all up to openside flank Schalk Burger to effect a turn-around.
“Good play at the breakdowns depends on a collective effort, it demands input from all 15 players. The performance at the breakdowns does become more effective if the approach is more structured, for if the game is pre-planned for three or four phases then the players know where they have to be.
“However, it doesn’t always work out as planned, so in the end it all has to come down to decision making.”Tweet