Tactical kicking and first-time tackling. Get those sorted, Boks and you’ll be well on your way.
I, for one, am amazed that all and sundry seem to be highlighting tactical kicking as an area of Ruan Pienaar’s game that they thought went well. Don’t get me wrong here; I thought Ruan had a pretty superb first-outing at flyhalf and he was by no means the worst of the Boks when it came to aimless kicks. That said, there was far too much ball that was booted straight down the throat of the Welsh. It’s a collective failure from a team perspective and one that needs to be addressed. If it wasn’t for Wales’s uncanny ability to press the self-destruct button on attack, our tactic of hoofing the pill straight to them may well have had more dire consequences than was ultimately the case.
Defence was a problem though, wasn’t it? It had nothing to do with alignment, in this case – rather, the application was so often just not good enough. Time and again, we saw the Boks get men to the ball carrier, cutting down the space and applying the pressure. Time and again, though, we saw the Welsh ball-carriers keep going, either through a poorly-timed stop that had no effect, or failure of the Bok tackler to actually bring the man to ground once hands had been laid. This, ultimately, allowed Wales to come within a sniff of wining a game that they really should never have stood a chance in.
I’m pleased to say, though, the Ruan Pienaar was one of the real stars defensively and committed his body and soul to every stop. Any worries about the safety of the flyhalf channel proved unfounded and to my mind, Pienaar’s, defensive performance was probably the most satisfying aspect of an otherwise pretty-darn-good display at flyhalf.
JP Pietersen was another to show REAL balls on defence. Can we honestly afford to go into a crunch test without the lanky Natalian in the picture? He certainly has the ability to stop an opposition foray dead in it’s tracks with a big, ball-and-all tackle, as he did on no fewer than three occasions this weekend.
Our application at the tackle-ball situation is something that needs urgent attention too, particularly if we’re planning on meeting Alain Rolland again at any stage in the future. I thought the Irishman’s blowing of this aspect was pedantic in the extreme, even bordering on the fanatical at times, but that doesn’t change the fact that his interpretations were, mostly, correct in terms of the letter (if not the spirit) of the law. As always, the problem of too few tight forwards committing to the rucks (Victoria!) just makes it so much harder for those who are there to compete legally.
All-in-all, though, not a terrible outing, given what’s been said above. As a mate of mine said after the final whistle, it’s far better to be talking about not playing well in a winning effort, rather than having given our all and still lost. This Bok team can get LOADS better and I have a feeling they’ll peak just in time to give England a whipping.
We can only hope.Tweet