The Springboks maintain that their attacking impotency isn’t a cause for concern.
The Springboks started promisingly against Samoa, controlling possession and territory and engineering a try for Bryan Habana early in the match. It looked as if they would finally find their attacking groove against competent opponents, which Fiji and Namibia are not. Yet they fell away badly thereafter, failing to trouble the islanders.
They were good in this regard for a sum total of eight minutes against Wales, controlling the ball through phases thanks to their dominance at the tackle point. They’ve looked formidable when they’ve managed this, but haven’t managed it nearly enough to stir confidence of them being able to ask telling questions of their likely quarter-final opponents, Australia.
The defining characteristic of the 2007 side was their equal potency on attack and defence. However, senior Springboks Jaque Fourie and Jean de Villiers refute the suggestion that there should be concern about the former facet of play. ‘We just need to hold on to the ball better than we did,’ Fourie said. ‘When we played through phases we scored and we have to do that more often. I’m sure we’ll get it right.’
Given Fourie’s offering, the Springboks have a sense of what their major failing on attack is. They average 21 handling errors or turnovers while in possession and concede the fourth highest number of penalties while in possession in the tournament. It is moving from an acute deficiency to a chronic one that threatens to derail their campaign.
Jean de Villiers doesn’t share those fears and stressed that you cannot discount what they achieved from an attacking perspective against minnows Fiji and Namibia.
‘You have to take into consideration the [weather] conditions in those games [Wales and Samoa - the former was played in windy and wet conditions, the latter with a stiff breeze] and it would also be unfair to ignore our performances against Fiji and Namibia altogether [they scored six and 12 respectively],’ he said.
‘We took 60 minutes to break the wall down in those games [Fiji and Namibia] and sometimes like tonight the opposition don’t allow you to play the way you intend to. We would like to score tries, but it is not something that is overly concerning for us.’
Bismarck du Plessis weighed in on the issue. ‘Whether we score 20 tries or just one in victory, it doesn’t matter. We won the 2007 World Cup final kicking penalties. The objective for us is to win and how we get there is not that important.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Auckland.
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