Former Springbok centre Brendan Venter believes individuals within the England side pose a bigger threat than the collective.
England are a team in transition. They recently appointed a new coaching staff, who has brought with them a new playing philosophy and entrusted a host of young players with the responsibility of picking England up from the ashes.
The dominant England side of the early 2000s took a while to become just that, and started with a group of talented individuals who were gradually forged into a highly competent unit by Clive Woodward – one who reached their pinnacle by winning the 2003 World Cup.
At present this group is in its infancy and for this reason Venter believes that their threat to the Springboks at Twickenham will come via individuals and not through a massive collective effort.
“They’re a new, young side and the common theme with teams like that is that they have the ability to trouble you through certain individuals, but they haven’t spent enough time together to ask the same questions from you as a team,” Venter told keo.co.za.
“A quick glance at their run-on side and you’ll see that they have a number of game breakers – Delon Armitage, Paul Sackey, Ugo Monye, Danny Cipriani – who all have the ability to change a game by themselves. But if you think of England at present, you don’t think ‘team threat’ like New Zealand for example, who are so efficient as a unit.”
Asked how best to counter such a challenge Venter said: “The key will be to ensure we stay tight as a team and the key facet of play will be the breakdown.
“We’ve been good on the ground defensively throughout the tour, but I think we’ve been ordinary on attack in terms of our ball presentation and ruck cleaning.
“If you give England an opportunity to attack from turnover ball, that’s when the threat of those game breakers is amplified. You can’t defend turnover ball in a structured way. You have to scramble. We need to avoid getting ourselves into that situation because that could cost us the Test.”
Venter added that the overall defensive display was good, explaining that conceding one try in two Tests was a good return, despite what is perceived to be a fragile looking defensive line at times. He did, however, lament the lack of penetration on attack.
“It’s especially disappointing when you consider that Peter de Villiers and Dick Muir are protagonists for the expansive game,” he said. “I expected them to pose a bigger threat on attack considering the players they have at their disposal.
“However, in their defence, modern defences are very well organised and you don’t just simply break them down at will. England are no different.
“Success starts with the pack gaining the ascendancy and providing the backline with the opportunity to attack a depleted defensive line. Then the game is simple. If we manage to do this I think the calibre of players we have in the back division could cut England up.”
By Ryan Vrede