Peter de Villiers says the Springboks have the decision makers and the game plan to overcome the subjective World Cup officiating at the breakdown.
Bok captain John Smit had a subtle dig at referee Wayne Barnes following Sunday’s Test in Wellington. Smit believes Barnes allowed the Welsh too much freedom at the breakdown, and that their offside play at the ruck allowed them to stifle the Bok attack to the point where it was rendered ineffective.
Speaking to the press on Monday, De Villiers echoed his captain’s sentiments. The Boks had 39% of the possession and still kicked much of that away, but De Villiers argues that this was necessary given the pressure South Africa were under at the breakdown.
‘It’s a grey area. If you see how many carries we had and how [Wales] didn’t come through the gate… If the area is officiated well we can keep the ball, if not we must kick it away. I back my players to adapt and make the right calls on the day.’
Before the tournament commenced, there was a strict directive passed down by IRB referees chief Paddy O’Brien. World Cup referees were expected to police the ruck vigilantly, and yet we’ve seen officials deliver some mixed showings in the early stages of the competition.
De Villiers said the way the Boks play suits the current laws, as their strong kicking game will allow them to play themselves into opposition territory when they are not getting go-forward with ball in hand. He also said the weather effected the accuracy of the Boks’ kicks in Wellington, and expects a more accurate display in future games.
‘It’s going to be the most important area at this tournament, and the decision making of when to kick and when to keep the ball will be crucial. The longer the tournament continues teams are going to struggle more and more to cross the gain line, because defences are going to be tighter. You have to be able to look after the ball and when there is a penalty, you will need a good kicker.
‘I wouldn’t say we kicked too much ball away or that we attacked poorly. It depends on what you do with the ball. People may say that you kick the ball away, but if you gain it back then it is a positive. It’s all about playing on the right side of the field, that is what matters.’
The Bok coach did concede that the Boks failed to stick to the prescribed game plan of keeping it tight.
‘We didn’t stick to our direct approach. We scored both of our tries when we went direct, we obtained just reward for that approach. Sometimes we took it wide and then failed to send enough cleaners to the breakdown, which was a problem as Wales flood that area.’
The Boks will play Fiji on Sunday, and De Villiers expects another physical contest. He is also confident the Bok defence will be up to the challenge of keeping the flying Fijians in check.
‘Fiji were brilliant in that second half [against Namibia], they ran from everywhere. I was surprised when I saw that they had left so many sevens players at home, but there must be a reason for that, these other players must be better.
‘There are no weak teams at the World Cup, there are no minnows. We have a very short week now, so we have to stick to our plan. We have to believe that the plan we’ve had for the past four years will carry us through.’
By Jon Cardinell in Wellington