Breakdown dominance boosted Boks
16 Jun 2012
SIMON BORCHARDT says South Africa’s match-winning first-half performance against England was a result of their ability to win quick ruck ball.
During the first 40 minutes at Kings Park last week, the Boks were guilty of committing too few players to the breakdown which allowed England to slow things down and reorganise their defence. During the first half at Ellis Park, the Boks ruthlessly cleaned out the opposition at ruck time and got quick second-phase ball that resulted in forward momentum.
Before this series, Heyneke Meyer was criticised by some for picking a ball-carrying openside flanker instead of a fetcher (like Heinrich Brussow) but Marcell Coetzee has more than justified his selection over the past two weeks. He got over the gainline regularly in Joburg, as did blindside flanker Willem Alberts, which allowed the Boks to suck in England defenders and then send the ball wide. It was no co-incidence that the Boks lost momentum when Alberts left the field injured in the 52nd minute.
The game got a bit loose at times in the first half, which suited the other member of the Bok loose trio, Pierre Spies. The No 8 always looks good when he gets possession in space and is able to build up a head of steam, and England didn’t do enough to close that space down.
The Boks also benefited from a much improved showing from Francois Hougaard. The scrumhalf provided good service to his backs while his boxing kicking (another weak area of his game) was far more accurate. The hang time of his first box kick, for example, was long enough to allow the Boks to reclaim possession and set up the attack that led to Bismarck du Plessis’ try.
While the Boks were keen to run the ball in the first half after they’d earned the right to go wide, they also made good use of the boot. JP Pietersen’s chip in behind the England defence saw the Boks win a 5m scrum (and a penalty that made it 15-3) when Ben Youngs was tackled in his in-goal area. And just before the break, Frans Steyn’s excellent grubber was collected by De Villiers, although he was unable to put Pietersen away in the right-hand corner.
What will concern Meyer, though, is that his side was unable to capitalise on a 19-point lead after 20 minutes and allowed England to get back within four late in the game. The hosts conceded a few penalties at the breakdown and scrum, and were unable to get the go-forward that had characterised their impressive first-half performance until the final minutes of the game when Pietersen’s try put the result beyond doubt.
The series has been won, but the Boks will be hoping to make it 3-0 with an 80-minute performance in Port Elizabeth.