Bok bulldozers eye axis

Ricardo Loubscher says the Springboks will target England’s 10-12 channel as their primary source of momentum.

The 10-12 combination of Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt started all but two matches of England’s Six Nations campaign and could be the preferred partnership for Saturday’s Test at Kings Park, although Charlie Hogson and Toby Flood are options at pivot.

Injury curtailed Flood’s involvement for the start of the Six Nations and Hodgson and Farrell were then preferred upon his return. However, Flood is the most experienced player in the squad with 47 caps, and in a Test of this magnitude coach Stuart Lancaster may well opt for him to steer the ship. In this case Farrell would shift to inside centre and Barritt to No 13.

However, Loubscher sounded an ominous warning to whoever fronts in the 10-12 channel. Speaking in the context of their attacking game plan, the Springbok backline coach said: ‘We have to earn the right to go wide. We are going to play directly and attack the 10-12 channel. So obviously the wings won’t get the ball in the early phases. If we create overlap opportunities we’ll be in business. We have a philosophy that we believe in. Our job is to get in behind the pack of forwards and to get guys to finish from there.’

Frans Steyn, who’ll start at inside centre, will be used in conjunction with key strike runners to try and generate the momentum the Springboks seek. Loubscher, however, stressed that Steyn offered more and would be used as more than a battering ram.

‘I’m excited to have him there because he has the skills set to play flyhalf as well. You are at an advantage when you have a 10-12 axis that are good decision makers and have the added bonus of a great kicking game.’

Loubscher continued, adding that even though there is a widely held perception that Jean de Villiers is being compromised by being asked to shift to the relatively unfamiliar role of outside centre, he felt it was the position he was best suited to.

‘Considering how we want to play, I would prefer to have Jean at outside centre. We see our 12 as the man to get us over the advantage line, and then when the ball is recycled the idea is to have your best decision maker at outside centre, and that man is Jean,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Monday’s training session shed some light on who would start at fullback. Zane Kirchner ran in the position for the majority of the session and the Bulls man, who has drifted between solid and outstanding in Super Rugby, is expected to oust Pat Lambie.

The pick will be viewed as a conservative one by many, but it would not be unexpected given Meyer’s familiarity with the player and what he offers in the context of their game plan and as a counter to England’s. Speaking of the two, Loubscher expressed the view that Lambie was in fact better suited to flyhalf.

‘They are different players. Zane is strong under the high ball and has strong kicking game. If you look at Lambie at flyhalf he brings an X factor. I think Pat is best suited to playing at flyhalf,’ he said.

‘If you’ve watched him at the Sharks he makes good decisions under pressure and that’s what you would expect from your 10. But it is all about what is needed on the day – if you want your impact at 10 or at fullback.’

By Ryan Vrede, in Durban

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