The Springboks were delighted with the state of the field when they got their first taste of the Murrayfield surface on Friday.
Gavin Rich writes for SuperRugby that the Boks play the second match of their tour against Scotland on Saturday, and the players say that the surface they trained on should not present any problems when it comes to underfoot conditions.
“It rained during our training session and rain is predicted for the game but I think it will blow in and then pass through, nothing really hectic,” said skipper John Smit on the eve of the match.
“The good thing is that the ground is very firm, it is not problematic at all from that viewpoint. The grass is thick, the surface is in great condition. It is like that every time I come to Murrayfield, I really don’t know what it is that they do to manage to get it into that condition.”
Smit was reminded that assistant coach and his former head coach at the Sharks Dick Muir had said at a press conference on Thursday that the Boks would be looking to move the ball around more, but he gave a strong indication that this would not mean the team would be returning to the loose style that proved disastrous in the Tri-Nations.
“I was interviewed on radio yesterday and asked that question and I responded that Dickie would probably look to run it if we were playing in Iceland,” laughed Smit.
“No, but seriously, I don’t think we should misunderstand what Dick is saying. He is not preaching all-out running rugby where every ball is run from everywhere, just that when we are in position to attack we must use that opportunity. If space is created, we must capitalise. He is not saying that the ball must be flung wide at every opportunity.”
That is good news for Bok fans, for such a policy has proved folly for the Boks this season. The Boks will be looking against the Scots to continue what they started in the last Tri-Nations test in Johannesburg by implementing a direct style where field position will be important.
But the Boks were maybe too conservative in Cardiff last week, and whereas it was good to see them return to the strategy the players are comfortable with and the one that has tended to be the successful one in world rugby over the past while, they also do need to be play more ball in hand than they did at Millennium Stadium.
In this regard Ruan Pienaar has an important role to play with his decision making. He showed last week that he can play to instructions and his heavy reliance on the boot was only him following the recipe he thought had been asked for. On Saturday, however, when it is on to do so, he can bring some of those attacking variations that saw him selected as a pivot in the first place.
But the absence through injury of Fourie du Preez is going to make it a much bigger challenge than the one he faced last week, even more so if it does rain. Indeed, if the conditions are particularly inclement, you can expect the Boks to do what the Sharks did for a wet weather game against Western Province a few years ago by moving Frans Steyn into flyhalf quite soon in the game, with Pienaar moving to scrumhalf.
“It’s not ideal to lose a player regarded as the best scrumhalf in the world so soon before a match like this one and we were hoping to keep the same 22 for consecutive games so that we could draw strength from consistency,” said Smit.
“We were looking to improve on the week before building up to the England game and some things will have to change about the game we were intending to play now that Fourie is not there. At the same time, Ricky is a great player who is very strong with his sniping breaks around the fringes.”
What replacement scrumhalf Ricky Januarie does not bring, however, is the tactical kicking prowess of Fourie du Preez, and that is why a really sodden field might see Pienaar moving back to scrumhalf if it becomes necessary for him to do so.Tweet