Heyneke Meyer says that the Springboks cannot hope to beat the All Blacks unless their goal-kickers start converting pressure into points more consistently.
Over the course of five Rugby Championship Tests, the Boks have been successful with just 19 out of 37 shots on goal (a record of 51.3%).
They missed out on 21 points through failed goal attempts in the Test played against the All Blacks in Dunedin. This cost them the game. They then missed six goal kicks in the subsequent Test against the Wallabies, and while this didn’t stop them from winning, it is a point of concern within the Bok camp.
Johan Goosen missed his first two goal attempts at Loftus Versfeld, and Meyer later explained that a bruised heel had been giving the 20-year-old trouble all week. The responsibilities then passed to Ruan Pienaar, who was successful with just three from his seven attempts.
At present, it seems as if Pienaar is set to continue as the team’s primary goal-kicker. Meyer said that no final decision had been made as yet, and that after the Wednesday afternoon training session they will know if Pienaar or Goosen is ready for such a responsibility.
Meyer admitted that the past performances have been poor, and that they can’t afford to let the All Blacks off the hook in Soweto like they did in Dunedin.
‘If we get into a position to win, then we have to win,’ the Bok coach said. ‘We played so well in Dunedin but in the end it’s who wins on the scoreboard that matters.
‘I can’t speak for them, but maybe the All Blacks underestimated us in Dunedin. They won’t do so again. It will be harder to win this Saturday than it was in Dunedin.
‘We have to take our opportunities this week. The All Blacks are a quality side and to beat them you have to be kicking at least 80%.’
Many are expecting the Boks to play an expansive game against the All Blacks, and feel that performance against the Wallabies was a sign that they’ve changed their game plan. But Meyer, for the umpteenth time this week, stressed that nothing has really changed.
‘We will look to put them under pressure, and then we will look to convert our points. It’s only a matter of time before those kickers find their groove.
‘It’s been difficult now that Morné Steyn and Frans Steyn are out. That’s two of our kickers gone. Johan is still learning and he had that injury. And then when the responsibility passed to Ruan on Saturday, he wasn’t mentally prepared for it.
‘We do have a number of options like Jaco Taute, as well as Elton Jantjies and Pat Lambie on the bench. They have all been kicking well in training, but it’s how you kick under pressure that counts.’
The Boks will need to play themselves into opposition territory before they can force the All Blacks to make errors or concede penalties. Meyer said that they haven’t forgotten how important the tactical kicking battle will be in a clash of this nature.
‘If the All Blacks throw it around, that will suit us in terms of the game we want to play. But we know how good they are in terms of the kicking game. Having a guy like Dan Carter at No 10 gives them a lot of options, he lends them a lot more composure too.
‘We have a lot of respect for the All Blacks and what they are capable of. This is why accuracy is so important. In terms of tactical kicking, you have to be accurate when you are kicking on a back three that includes Israel Dagg and Cory Jane.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg