Jannie du Plessis says the inexperience of the Springboks’ pack should not be viewed as a negative.
Injuries have seriously depleted the stocks in the Springboks’ heavies, forcing coach Heyneke Meyer to entrust a couple of bucks with the responsibility of fronting the world’s elite in the Rugby Championship.
They have responded well, with their excellent effort against the world champion All Blacks in Dunedin a highlight thus far. Certainly there is a greater balance needed between experience and youth (or players like Duane Vermuelen who is in the infancy of his Test career), but Du Plessis said the rookies could in fact aid their cause.
‘I’ve played in Springboks packs since 2006 and my experience has been that it takes time for young players to believe that they are as good others seeing them as being,’ Du Plessis told keo.co.za.
‘This current Springboks pack won’t stand back to any pack in world rugby. We can match them physically and skills wise. The new players are special and have consistently performed at the highest level of the game. Once they start to get more self-belief you’ll see a different side. You can pick a young pack that is hungry and they could play better than a bunch of guys who’ve played hundreds of Tests but who feel like they’ve been there and done that. The hunger of younger plays is a plus. The hungry dog hunts best.’
Nullifying the Wallabies’ pack will demand a good measure of tactical intelligence to go with a brutal physical effort. This is particularly true for the scrum contest, where the Springboks were out-thought in their previous meeting in Perth.
‘I don’t want to imply they are cheaters, but they just scrum differently. The All Blacks view the scrum in a similar light to the Springboks. They see it as an opportunity to exert their physical dominance over their opponents, whereas the Australians are much more tactical. They know what they want from scrums in certain areas and that’s what they will attack. They are a big challenge,’ Du Plessis said.
The Springboks will also want to boss their attacking lineouts as it is the root for setting up a formidable rolling maul. The maul’s success has been one of the stand out features of their campaign and assistant coach Johan van Graan said it would continue to be a big focal point.
‘South African rugby won’t be as strong without the maul. We’ve got a good balance between when we maul and when we move the ball into space just around the maul’s fringe. We got lots of momentum there against the All Blacks and got four penalties from it against the Wallabies. It’s all about winning the lineout ball first. Nathan Sharpe is very good at disrupting the maul so we’ll have to be on top of our game there.’
Van Graan added that their tactical kicking game in exiting their half would be central to any success at Loftus. ‘They pinned us in our territory so we want to ensure we get out of our half quickly and look to exert pressure on them. Also they’ve given us some problems with their innovative running lines, so we’ve addressed that.’
He was confident the Springboks will find the cohesive showing they’ve lacked shortly and said there is an air of optimism in the squad despite their recent struggles.
‘We have progressed across most facets of play. We need an effort that sustains across the 80 minutes. This is the Springboks. We want to make the country proud and some we can compete with the best in the world en route to becoming the best in the world,’ he said.
By Ryan Vrede, in Johannesburg