Sbu Nkosi was outstanding under the high ball for the Springboks against England. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says the Springboks have taken a giant leap forward in the once problematic area of contesting for the high ball.

The Boks’ aerial skills had been lacking under the coaching of Allister Coetzee and Heyneke Meyer.

But in 2018 they have improved dramatically, with the likes of rookie wings Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi all winning their fair share of contestable kicks.

Also, Willie le Roux has dominated the aerial battle against some of the best exponents of the high ball, while Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe and Handré Pollard have all shown willingness to get up in the air, something that wasn’t always the case in the past.

Against England at Twickenham last Saturday, the Bok wings – Nkosi and Dyantyi – out-jumped their opponents on more than one occasion, something Stick said was the result of plenty of work put in by the players this year.

“We’re fortunate to have so much talent in the outside backs, guys like Aphiwe and Sbu. We’re in a good space with all this potential in the squad,” said Stick in Paris yesterday.

“This season was always going to be a challenge to get the aerial skills right, and more so knowing we would be coming to northern conditions, where there is more kicking; it was a big work-on.

“But the guys worked very hard, and it’s getting better all the time. Some years back New Zealand dominated, and England have also always been good (in the air), but we’re catching up.

“Seeing the confidence in our players (to get up there) is good news for us; we’re getting there, we just need to start dominating now.”

Stick added that the Boks were happy with several aspects of their play in the first Test against England, but now needed to make the most of the opportunities they created.

Stick further said the Boks wouldn’t change much in their approach going into this weekend’s match against the unpredictable French in Paris.

“Look, it’s always difficult here, playing France in their own conditions. But despite the loss last week, we’re moving in the right direction,” Stick said.

Not knowing much about the French, who the Boks rarely play, is always something of a challenge for the coaching teams.

But Stick said they would tap into the likes of Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen and Kolbe, who have either played in France for several years or still do, and know the players and their mindset.


The Star

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