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The Springboks will have to make over 180 tackles if they hope to beat the Wallabies in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash, says coach Heyneke Meyer, and he has picked just the loose trio to do that.
There is nothing subtle about a combination of Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen, but what they will give you is physical presence, energy and a high tackle count.
Vermeulen will make his long-awaited bow for the Boks on Saturday, and while Meyer admits that the three big men are not the quickest around, they will prove to be a handful for their Wallaby counterparts of Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper and Radike Samo. It is particularly pertinent for the South Africans to make an impact after the Argentinian loose trio were on top in the 16-16 draw in Mendoza.
“The one thing we don’t have in our back row, which is a little bit of a concern, is out-and-out pace. But I think they make up for that with a big workrate. Duane is not a typical eight, but he is a very hard, grafting eight that gives you go-forward. I think that guys must play to their strengths. We don’t have a classical eight, and probably lack a little bit of speed,” the Bok coach said yesterday.
“But what we lose in speed, we gain in muscle, and in intelligence. We have good ball-carriers who can get us over the advantage line, while we also need to slow down the breakdowns. I’m quite positive, after watching the videos of Australia and New Zealand, that both teams got quick ball. It was a fair contest on the ground, which is what we also want. I think that both teams will get quick ball on Saturday.”
Vermeulen pointed out that the presence of the recalled Francois Louw, who will play off the bench, was an option that the Boks could utilise.
“We also have Francois Louw, so if the coach feels that it is necessary to bring him on earlier to deal with Hooper, then he will do that,” the Western Province No 8 said.
Meyer added that Louw had made a good impression on him this week. “I’ve really been impressed with Francois Louw. He hasn’t been here for quite some time, but he fitted in nicely, and he is also a jumper in the lineouts, which is a huge positive for us. When we did our ball-stealing drill, he was superb on the ground.
“He looks in great condition and had a good off-season – you can see that he is ready to go and is really fit. He had a long flight, but he has recovered well. He is definitely going to get game time on Saturday, and it will be quite exciting to see what he can bring to the party.
“We’ve got quite a big back row, and Francois gives us another option. If it’s a really tough game and depending on how the referee interprets things on the ground, you almost have an insurance policy where you can send him on. But what I want from the back row is a high workrate and more ball-carries – we need to break the line open as well.”
Meyer said that he has closely studied the videos of the last two Bledisloe Cup encounters between Australia and New Zealand, which ended in 27-19 and 22-0 victories for the All Blacks, and concluded that there is “not a big difference” between the two teams.
But he is not going to be caught off guard by the Wallaby whitewash in the second Test, particularly as coach Robbie Deans has decided on an all-out attack approach in the selection of his backline. The Bok mentor knows that his players will have to be ruthless on defence if they hope to win at the Patersons Stadium.
“It’s one or two decisions, or a few soft moments that make the difference. Australia are a quality side, and when we last played them, we didn’t use our chances, while they used theirs. They are a very disciplined side, and the main thing is that they have an unbelievable backline, and if they get quick ball, they can punish you,” Meyer said.
“If you look at all those games, it’s inches that made the difference in all the games, especially away from home. It’s the inches that count, it’s the discipline that counts. If you want to win away from home, especially against Australia, you must be able to make 180-plus tackles. You have to have a great defence, a great kicking game, and there has to be no soft moments in the game.”