Boks need to learn quickly

CJ van der Linde says they have to make sharp adaptations to new rules or risk giving an edge to their opponents.

The International Rugby Board earlier this year introduced a series of law adjustments which the northern hemisphere has played under since the start of their season. They include: a five second time limit on the ball being played once it is made available at the back of a ruck, a time limit on when conversion kicks must be completed, the positioning of a quick throw-in, expanding the short-arm penalty options for teams benefiting from a knock-on or throw forward into touch, teams awarded a penalty or free kick at a lineout may choose another lineout without first having to kick for touch and a new scrum engagement call which will see referees call “crouch, touch, set”.

It is the latter that will test the Springboks most, given that they have just one dedicated scrummaging session this week in preparation for their Test against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday. Veteran prop Van der Linde said they must derive maximum value from that.

‘We’ll have to make that adjustment very quickly,’ he said. ‘They’ve been playing under those rules for some time. We have a scrumming session on Tuesday [to work things out] and we’ll have to use that well. It’s more of a mental switch to get used to the new sequence. Definitely a more mental adjustment than a technical one.’

There is also the introduction of an additional prop on the bench, something Van der Linde welcomed and said smart coaches could exploit to their team’s advantage.

‘It brings a new dimension to the game and eliminates the unconstested scrums,’ he said. ‘There are tactical benefits as well, with a tighthead now being able to play for longer, perhaps 60 minutes, and then be replaced for the final 20 [with a fresh specialist]. So there’s no room for tactical maneuvering.’

Van der Linde described Ireland as a team that has evolved for the better recently, pointing to Leinster’s success and their feeding of the national team with high quality players as being central to that. He also cited the ‘excellent’ contribution of former World Cup winning Springbok fowards coach Gert Smal.

Having spent a couple of seasons at Leinster, Van der Linde said he would make time to catch up with former team-mates, including Jamie Heaslip, Jonathan Sexton and Leo Cullen, but stressed his focus was contributing to a successful tour.

‘We aim to win all three Tests,’ he said. ‘If we don’t start well it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the tour. There’s big pressure to win [for that reason] and we have to hit the ground running.’

By Ryan Vrede, in Dublin

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