Heyneke Meyer described the Springboks’ conversion rate in the opposition’s 22m as ‘unacceptable’ and has demanded greater patience from his team in that zone.
The Springboks have struggled to find a consistent try-scoring groove this season. They started well against England in the second Test of the series in June, and later put five on Australia at Loftus. But those where exceptions to an otherwise uninspiring season on attack.
They haven’t wanted for a lack of opportunities though, with statistics showing them to be the leading side in the world this year for time spent in the opposition’s 22m. Tellingly, however, they are also high on the list for errors or infringements in that area, which has undermined their cause significantly.
Meyer, speaking in Edinburgh before Saturday’s Test against Scotland, appeared to be vexed by this shortcoming and determined to remedy it.
‘Against Ireland I thought we should have built an innings more,’ he began. ‘We tried too many things too early and gave away turnovers.
‘That’s part of our learning curve, but that said, that was the only game that we didn’t win the territory battle. I’ve been hard on the players about our patience in the goal zone (between the 22m and tryline). The top teams in the world get points when they get in there. It may be a coaching or inexperience thing, but it has to improve. We get in the right areas and we get clean ball, but we don’t covert. At this level that is unacceptable.’
The All Blacks ran in six tries against Scotland on Sunday, but, in addition to the world champions’ superior patience, the Springboks don’t possess their synergy, skill, invention and flair, and should probably set their sights lower than a return of that scale.
They cannot, however, deliver anything but a dominant defensive display, particularly with Scotland having sounded a warning of their attacking potential with three tries against the Blacks.
‘I really believe Scotland is a quality side, they’re very dangerous when they keep the ball in hand. The scoreline didn’t reflect how close it was,’ Meyer said of their host’s 51-22 defeat.
‘There was 10 minutes of brilliance where the All Blacks put 20 points on them. Scotland were always in the game and scored three tries, which us and Australia never managed to do. They were probably unlucky not to score one or two more. So it’s important for us to stay focussed.’
The Springboks have defended well to date, conceding an average of 1.2 tries per match and will want to continue to improve on this important facet of play.
‘I’ve said that attack puts bums on seats but defence wins trophies. There was an emphasis on getting that right last week after the All Blacks game in Soweto. Ireland put us under pressure and we responded really well. We’ll have to be on top of our game to shut down Scotland.’