Concern for the threat that the British and Irish Lions could pose at the breakdowns has prompted the Springbok management to call in John Plumtree to help with their preparations for the forthcoming three match series.
Sport24 reports that Sharks coach Plumtree will link up with the Boks when they arrive in Durban next week to begin the final fortnight of build-up to the series, which starts in the same city on 20 June. The breakdowns will be Plumtree’s main area of focus with the Boks, something he was called in to do only briefly during last year’s Tri-Nations.
“The breakdowns and the kicking game of the respective teams will determine the outcome of this series, so it is crucial that we get that aspect of the game right,” said Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold on Thursday.
Like Plumtree, who has coached around the world since he took up his first job with Swansea in 1997, Gold has extensive experience coaching in Britain. He coached at London Irish for five years. He knows better than anyone how much emphasis is put on the breakdown there.
“The breakdown is coached really well in the northern hemisphere. I think that is because they have more breakdowns there, there is a greater stress on slow ball management than there is with us in the south. There is a lot of emphasis over there on how the players operate together at the breakdown.”
Plumtree has long been a proponent of better organisation and team-work between South African loose-forward combinations, and two years ago, before the World Cup, Plumtree said in a magazine article that Schalk Burger, as one example, could be a more devastating player if used differently.
Gold does not have dissimilar views, but Plumtree’s presence can only reinforce the intellectual aspect of the Bok challenge and he has had great success with individual players at the Sharks.
Their strength at the breakdown was one of the areas where the Lions were dominant on Wednesday night when they smashed the Golden Lions 74-10 at Coca Cola Park – and it was one of several aspects of the Lions game that the Bok management have taken note of.
“It was an indifferent game but all credit to the British and Irish Lions for capitalising on the opportunities they were offered and for the big victory they scored,” said the other Bok assistant coach, Dick Muir.
“It was an impressive performance from the Lions, and there was a lot that we picked up that we did not know about them before. They are a formidable team who have a reasonable amount of time to prepare and get themselves ready to play us.”
As a backline coach and former centre himself, it was unsurprising to hear Muir pinpoint the Jamie Roberts/Brian O’Driscoll combination in the midfield as one of the most impressive features of the Lions performance.
“We always thought that Roberts and O’Driscoll would be the Lions Test combination in the midfield, and in the Johannesburg game they showed us why. But we also have a strong midfield and it will be motivation for our guys.
“The good thing for me is that the Lions have laid down a challenge. We have good players in this country, and it will be great to watch and see how they respond to the challenge.”Tweet