Better Boks but still need for growth

RYAN VREDE writes the Springboks exhibited all-round progress but there remain areas of concern.

Any assessment of the Springboks needs to take into consideration the reduced strength of their opponents. A better, more cohesive All Blacks side would have punished their defensive lapses (they missed 33 tackles) and indeed possessed a greater attacking threat than this one – steered by the mediocre Colin Slade – did.

However, it would be remiss not to note the Springboks’ scramble defence when they were breached, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana and Francois Hougaard all snuffing out sure five pointers with desperate cover defence.

Furthermore, there was a patent improvement in physicality and structure in general play on defence. The former undeniably contributed significantly to the latter, with the Springboks’ strength at the collisions allowing them to reset, amplifying their defensive effort. Heinrich Brussow’s excellence in stifling the Blacks at the breakdown cannot go unmentioned. He is a phenomenal player and has become indispensable to the Springboks.

To restrict an All Blacks side boasting some of the best attacking players in the game to just one try is a feat to be celebrated. Richard Kahui’s 35th minute score was expertly crafted and little fault can be attributed to the Springboks in this regard. It appears the Springboks are starting to get to grips with the new defensive system introduced by Jacques Nienaber which bodes well for the World Cup title defence.

However, their attacking impotence continues to be a cause for deep concern. They rarely troubled the Blacks through inventive, precise attacking play, this despite often enjoying a good platform. Their first entry into the 22m came in the 26th minute, but they would struggle to consistently drive into that zone. Superb goalkicking from Morne Steyn kept the scoreboard ticking, but he continues to lay too deep in the pocket and varies his play too seldom to pose a significant attacking threat. Steyn kicked 22 times and passed 18 times, but the zero in his run column is what frustrates his critics most.

He is undoubtedly the safe option for coach Peter de Villiers, but against a more disciplined defensive unit, Steyn’s boot would have been less of a factor. The Springboks have to grow their game in this facet of play. How they do that in the 22 days until their World Cup clash against Wales and no matches remaining to find their groove, is the big question.

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