Lion cubs expose Bok lineout

The Lions U21s yesterday highlighted the fallibility of the Springbok lineout without Victor Matfield.

The Boks took on the Lions in a practice match in preparation for their year-end tours of Ireland and England and were comprehensively out-jumped by their less experienced opponents. Pundits have long speculated about the potency of the Bok lineout without Matfield, generally considered to be the world’s premier lineout jumper, and yesterday their fears were realised.

Forward coach Gert Smal will be acutely aware that the Irish second rowers are renowned for their lineout work and that they will pose a tremendous threat on the Bok throw in. Albert van den Berg, Johan Muller and Danie Rossouw were the jumpers responsible for the shambles at the set phase, with Gary Botha and Chiliboy Ralepelle hopelessly inaccurate with their throw-ins.

In addition, the Boks failed to impress at the kickoffs, with handling errors and intercepts compounding what was a worrying day for the coaching staff.

Jake White however refused to to be downcast at the showing of his charges. “We were inaccurate at times in the line-outs and at the kickoffs, but it was a valuable exercise,” he told the Star.

“I wasn’t happy with the line-outs, but then again John Smit (rested) wasn’t doing the throwing. It was tough out there … we couldn’t expect the guys to put their bodies on the line in a practice game. But at least we got an opportunity to try a few new things.”

You have to question the logic behind Whites offering that he was less concerned about the throw-ins because Smit wasn’t executing them. What happens when the captain has to miss a match through injury? And what does it say about White’s expectations of Botha and Ralapelle?

Albert van den Berg and Johan Muller missed a portion of the match while receiving treatment for cuts to their face, a factor White said had a detrimental effect on the team.

“They had to get some stitches and that disrupted us a bit, but it was good practice for the other guys. They need to learn to handle those situations.”

White drew similarities between the Boks and Ireland and inadvertently defended his omission of Absa Currie Cup star loose forwards Kabamba Floors and Luke Watson, by saying that big loose forwards offered him additional lineout options.

“Ireland have been consistent with their selections for a number of years now and they’ve been rewarded for that. They’ve got the same players and the same coach, and if you pushed me, I’d even be able to name the team that’s going to run out against us. That’s how consistent they’ve been.

“They’ve got some really big forwards who are all quality performers in the line-out. We’re simply going to have to match them there.”