Johannesburg - Tactical kicking is one of the key areas the Springboks are looking to improve on as they go in search of their first Rugby Championship title since 2009, coach Heyneke Meyer said this week.
“The one area where we haven't really been tested, which we have to improve from last year is the tactical kicking,” Meyer said ahead of next week's opening championship clash against Argentina in Pretoria.
“If you just look at Super Rugby... the likes of New Zealand and especially Australia have moved to a nine and 10 that can kick well tactically.
“It was one of our downfalls last year in the Rugby Championship, we need to keep on improving on that and we'll spend a lot of time this week working on that.”
Since making his Springbok debut against Italy in June 2013, fullback Willie le Roux has added tactical kicking to his growing repertoire.
Le Roux's new-found skill set has added richly to the tactical kicking abilities of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and flyhalf Morne Steyn.
However, Du Preez has been ruled out for the rest of the year due to an ankle injury, and his absence will leave a void in the Bok armoury.
“The biggest thing we will miss is his (Du Preez) tactical kicking, he's probably been the best tactical kicker off nine,” Meyer said.
“Fourie was the mastermind in that he knows when to kick, when to run and when to play our players because of his experience.
“He was the one guy that picked up the right runners... there has been a huge evolution in our game where we started attacking out of our own 22 where we scored some great tries from.”
For years South Africa has been labelled a kicking-minded rugby side but over the last year it was clear the Boks were evolving, adding an attacking dimension.
While the Springboks emerged as one of the top try-scoring nations, the All Blacks now also boasted an accurate tactical kicking game in its arsenal.
Last year's final and deciding Rugby Championship Test at Ellis Park between the Springboks and the All Blacks demonstrated the visitors' superior conditioning and fitness.
While the Boks have made progress in terms of the conditioning of the players, Meyer said he would never be completely satisfied.
“The one area that we still need to improve if we want to be the best team in the world is conditioning,” he said.
“Even if your tactical kicking is not there, once you get fatigued the skills level go, your defence goes, your scrums go and your penalties go up.
“We can't just outmuscle guys, we have to outhink them, while we have to be physical and skillful enough.”