Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
Heyneke Meyer is confident that second-string hooker Adriaan Strauss will fill the void left by Bismarck du Plessis’ season-ending injury, but the Springbok coach says a much more robust effort will be required at the breakdown this week to beat Argentina in Mendoza.
“Bismarck out is a huge blow, especially with Pierre Spies out as well,” Meyer told reporters after the Boks began their Rugby Championship campaign with a 27-6 win against the Pumas at Newlands.
“We definitely missed him because he’s one of the most experienced players in the pack, he’s a leader there and he’s a renowned ball-stealer. But I think Adriaan is a quality hooker, and a good leader as well, so I’m happy to have him in.”
Du Plessis tore two knee ligaments shortly after kick-off and Strauss came off the bench to make his 13th appearance for South Africa.
The Boks held their own against a Pumas scrum that is the stuff of rugby lore, and also dominated a prolific lineout, which speaks to the ability of the Cheetahs captain. He made an impressive contribution in the set phases and is revered by his peers, but Du Plessis is a destructive force in the tight loose and it is there where Strauss – and his teammates – will be expected to improve this week.
“We need to be more physical at the breakdown,” said the Bok coach. “We need to adjust. Argentina were all over us at the breakdown and we didn’t handle it on the day.
“In Super Rugby, the game is very quick and the breakdown isn’t heavily contested, but a lot of (the Pumas) play (club rugby) in the northern hemisphere and the breakdown is a really tough fight (over there).
“I definitely knew it was going to be a physical game and not a high- scoring one. They’ve always been a team with a lot of passion.
“We didn’t get the recycling we wanted to, and we didn’t finish where we should have. We played the right game plan, but we need to finish better.
“Argentina’s defence was awesome and we have to give them credit for that. People underestimate them. We played a gain-line dominance game, but we didn’t get any quick ball.
“If the guys hadn’t been physical today, it would have a been a much tougher day at the office. We need to make a huge step up at the breakdown.”
Fortunately for the hosts, Argentina had no answer for the momentum generated by Bok juggernauts such as Willem Alberts and Eben Etzebeth.
But Meyer admitted that “we need to learn from this”, hinting that South Africa would not enjoy as vast a superiority of personnel when they take on Australia and New Zealand.
It’s also important that the coach addresses the speed and efficiency of South Africa’s attacking breakdown in training this week because, though Argentina were brave, they are clearly an echelon below their southern hemisphere rivals.
Slow ball contributed to the Boks’ failure to clinch the four-try bonus point at Newlands, and the All Blacks will, on review, fancy their chances of racking up a high score against the South Americans. This could prove to be a decisive factor at the end of the competition.
Another reason to improve is that the Pumas will be more difficult to subdue in Argentina.
“We’ve seen their passion in the way they play and it’ll only get more difficult playing them there,” said Meyer. “They will want to show their people that they belong in this competition. But I know we can play better and we’ve also got a passion to play for our country. It’ll be a very hard match.”