Gary Gold says that an accurate attacking display will ultimately aid the Springbok defence in Saturday’s showdown with the flying Fijians.
The Boks scraped past Wales last Sunday, and the head coach and several players have since hailed the defensive effort. In reality, it wasn’t the most convincing defensive performance, as while several individuals stood out and the scrambling defence snuffed many a Welsh attack, there were too many linebreaks in the flyhalf channel and as many as 17 missed tackles overall.
Gold is also of the belief that it was a good defensive effort, and explained that the missed tackles were a product of the Boks’ poor ball retention. Wales enjoyed 61% of the possession, and were allowed to have multiple cracks at the South African defensive line.
The Bok assistant coach said the team has taken a lesson from that fixture and will not make the same mistakes against Fiji. The islanders may not have the set-piece to challenge the Boks, but they are devastating when handed the ball in broken field.
‘Fiji will certainly pose a physical threat, but then they will also pose a different challenge with their pace out wide,’ said Gold. ‘They won’t change the way they play so we will have to ensure that we look after the ball. We will have to deny them as much possession as possible.
‘We can’t defend for long periods of time against quality teams, because no matter how good you are the dam wall will eventually break. We need to control the ball better and be more precise with our kicking game. When we looked after the ball against Wales, we actually looked good and we’ll need more of that against Fiji.’
That is not to suggest that a focus on better ball retention will see the Boks embracing a more expansive style. They will play for territory, and will be hoping for a more accurate tactical kicking performance, and from there they will use their powerful forwards and midfield to subdue and destroy the opposition.
The contest at the collisions is going to be brutal. Gold said that the Boks are prepared for a challenge of this nature, and should be able to adapt to the referee’s management style on the day.
‘There seems to be a slightly different interpretation concerning the arrival of the defender. Sometimes there’s no daylight when the defender effects the tackle and then competes for possession. Having said that, we have done a lot of analysis on the opposition and the respective referees,’ the Bok forwards coach said.
‘The collisions will be particularly heavy on Saturday. They have no opensiders per se, but they all like to have a go at the breakdown. We can’t take them lightly because they have the ability to match us physically. It’s a matter of us imposing our strengths on them rather than vice versa.’
The selection of Frans Steyn means the Boks will also use their centres to dominate the Fijians. Steyn paired up with Jaque Fourie at the previous World Cup, and the pair enjoyed some success as a destructive combination.
Fourie told the media that the players are pumped up for this contest, and that success on Saturday will be determined by attitude as well as execution.
‘We need to stay in our structures, but we also have to get in their faces and make it as unpleasant for them as possible,’ he said. ‘They will want to play a looser game, so we can’t afford to give them any opportunities.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington