SA searching for balance

Fourie du Preez says the Springboks need to strike a balance between attack and defence if they’re going to be a success at the World Cup.

The Boks were patently undercooked in last week’s Test against the Wallabies. The first half witnessed a solid defensive display and a tactical approach similar to the 2009 template where the South Africans relied on the accurate boot of Du Preez and the ball-stealing exploits of Heinrich Brussow. But as the game progressed, the Boks struggled to maintain that defensive pressure and were made to regret their poor finishing on attack.

This week, the Boks will be looking to end their three-game losing streak and deliver a performance that gives the team and public hope ahead of the all-important World Cup in September.

‘Winning this weekend will be ideal, getting one over the All Blacks will be important for our momentum,’ Du Preez said. ‘It will also give the people hope again and give some confidence back to the team.

‘You have to be ready when you get to the World Cup. The hardest game of our pool is the first one against Wales, so we have to build ourselves up with a good performance against the All Blacks. It’s not a do-or-die Test this week, but it is important.’

Du Preez and Brussow were ruled out of the 2010 Test season because of injury, and many felt that their absence contributed to the Boks’ shocking run of results. Both made their respective returns to international rugby last week, and while they weighed in with some positive contributions, it’s clear the game has moved on since 2009.

‘I wouldn’t say things have changed a lot in the way the Boks play, but we have always looked to improve. Unfortunately, we haven’t got the results or performances that we’ve been looking for [in the last couple of seasons].

’2009 was more defensive, we relied more on the kick-chase, but this year has seen more of a contest at the breakdown so you have to find the right balance [between attack and defence]. Hopefully this weekend and going forward we will find that balance.’

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said earlier in the week that Du Preez is the best player New Zealand have encountered over the last eight years. His opposite number for this week’s encounter in Port Elizabeth, Jimmy Cowan, also voiced his respect for the Boks’ key player.

‘He’s a quality halfback, it’s great to seem him playing at this level again,’ said Cowan. ‘It’s always good to have a chance to measure yourself against the best.

‘You have to respect what he has achieved with South Africa. I was watching a few clips earlier in the week of Du Preez at the 2007 World Cup. There were some pretty special performances. He’s someone we will be especially wary of this Saturday.’

By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth