Perth – Rugby coaches normally list winning set-piece ball and territory as the two major factors in being able to implement an attacking strategy. But this year, turnover ball is quickly becoming as important.
Springbok defence coach John McFarland believes that conceding too many turnovers in the last Test against Argentina was one of the main causes of their defensive struggles in Salta, with Los Pumas nearly pulling off a shock win with a combination of forward power, deft handling and counter-attacking by the backline.
But ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia, McFarland doesn’t want his team to only stop Australia turning the ball over to provide attacking opportunities to a dangerous Wallaby backline, but also force more turnovers to allow the Boks’ own weapons, such as Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana and Cornal Hendricks, to strike. McFarland pointed out in Perth yesterday that the Boks showed against Argentina how lethal they could be off turnovers as well – both Habana and Hendricks’ tries in Salta came from around their own 22.
“Argentina struck mostly off turnover ball, and if you look at most tries, they come off turnover ball, that’s recognised the world over. And most of the tries come within two phases from the turnover. If you look at the long-range tries that New Zealand scored, they came within a phase or two,” McFarland said.
That could be one of the reasons why Bok coach Heyneke Meyer is set to include Marcell Coetzee at blindside flank ahead of Oupa Mohoje when he names his team tomorrow, as it would mean that South Africa are essentially fielding two flanks who can play as fetchers, with Francois Louw at openside.
Big No8 Duane Vermeulen is also able to steal ball on the ground, and in answering a question about how the All Blacks were able to neutralise Wallaby fullback Israel Folau’s threat in the two recent Tests, McFarland spoke about how much of an emphasis the Boks will place on denying Folau any attacking opportunities. “He’s a game-breaker and a guy with X-factor, so the biggest thing is to cut off his supply lines and don’t let him get into the game with his strengths.”
The Wallabies’ 51-20 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks in their last match may have given the Boks a false sense of confidence going into the clash at Patersons Stadium, but McFarland stated that Meyer’s team won’t be caught off-guard by the Eden Park scoreline.
They have been hard at work since last Thursday in trying to sort out their problem areas, and while the first practice on tour can be expected to be completed at a leisurely pace, the Boks ran around the Hale School field with great intensity yesterday, putting in extra time on their line-outs – where Victor Matfield took charge – kick-offs and fielding up-and-unders.
They will know that the Wallabies will also be fired up after the defeat to the All Blacks, and they will face a significantly more formidable backline than they did in Salta. Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie will name his team early today South African time, and he could re-jig his backline by bringing in Bernard Foley at flyhalf, shifting Kurtley Beale to inside centre and promoting Tevita Kuridrani to the starting team at No13.
Adam Ashley-Cooper may line up at right wing in a back-three unit with the classy Folau at fullback and Rob Horne at No11. McFarland admits that it will be a tough defensive challenge. “Yeah, I’d agree with that. There are some X-factor players there,” he said. “The All Blacks scored from line-out drives, which is one of our strengths and one of the things we will look to do. And then there were two or three long-range tries from turnover ball.” - The Star