The Springbok management were impressed with the Lions’ synergy at Ellis Park but believe they have the defence to snuffle the tourists’ attack.
Assistant coaches Gary Gold and Dick Muir praised the tourists for their clinical execution but acknowledged the Golden Lions had a shocker. The bottom line is the tourists have gathered momentum from their 74-10 result and will be that much better in the next outing in Bloemfontein.
‘It was an indifferent game, but credit to the Lions,’ Muir told keo.co.za. ‘It was surprising that they played as well as they did, but then again they played as well as they were allowed to.
‘South Africa is a proud nation and we enjoy a good challenge. The management picked up a few things from this game and it was good to see the Lions getting such good width on the ball. You can see that synergy and camaraderie is already coming through, they have a fantastic squad.’
Muir was impressed by midfielders Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll but pointed to the Springboks’ own strength in midfield as a bonus.
‘We’ll certainly have our work cut out but our midfield has been tried and tested. We have a lot of faith and pride in our defence. I don’t think it will pose any major worries.’
Gold feels the breakdown and the kicking game will determine the result in the Test series. The Lions neglected to utilise their kicking game for the second game in a row, and Gold feels this could change by 20 June.
‘They certainly won’t move the ball as freely,’ Gold told this website. ‘You’ll see some subtle changes in the Tests where they look to attack from certain positions.’
Having coached at London Irish in England, Gold is aware of how the breakdown is coached in that part of the world. The northerners’ strength in this area was prominent in Wednesday’s victory, and the Bok forwards’ coach expects them to improve as they spend more time together.
‘In the UK they average more breakdowns than us and are very effective at slow-ball management. You can also see how they strive for synergy in they way they are coached, as a lot of emphasis is placed on the ball-carrier hitting the gain line. They were very proficient in that area last night.
‘We’re going to have to be very sharp in how we defend the breakdown. Tom Croft has been a real find for England and is going to be pushing for a Test place at blindside on this tour. Jamie Heaslip was exceptional against the Golden Lions and then an opensider like Martyn Williams is world-class.
‘How they get the loose trio combination together will be interesting because they have some very strong players.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg