Boks need to switch up things for skilful Scots

By Darryn Pollock Time of article published Nov 13, 2018

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DURBAN – Scotland’s rugby of old was as harsh and attritional as the weather in the deepest Highlands. They were always a forward-dominant team that would try and grind out small margins whenever possible. But, much like the evolution of their major cities, Cosmopolitan Edinburgh looks as chic and as slick as the Thistles’ playing style these days.

Through their evolution, they have had some Kiwi influence in the form of Vern Cotter, and he has taught them a raft of new skills and handling drills. The Scotland of new is a team of nip and zip, and not one to be taken lightly anymore.

But what does this mean for the Springboks, whose northern hemisphere tour has hardly been a dawdle so far with a close loss, and a close win, under their belts. England pulled out the hammer at Twickenham, and France the sledge hammer to try and batter the Boks, but in Edinburgh, it will be more of a surgeon’s scalpel to deal with.

If we were to examine just where Bok rugby has come since the days when Scotland were a bit of an easy win, and a total battle of the forwards, we can admit the South Africans have tried to not forgo any of their physicality. It is still something that precedes them in the reputation stakes the world over.

Regardless of the size or aggression of any opposition, there is hardly ever a time where the Boks will be blown away by pure brawn and physical assaults. This has led to the South Africans perhaps getting stuck in this mindset when the going gets tough.

France's Teddy Thomas is tackled by Malcolm Marx at the Stade de France on Saturday. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA
France's Teddy Thomas is tackled by Malcolm Marx at the Stade de France on Saturday. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA

There is no doubt that the Boks have tried to add a lot more skill, flair, and exciting attack to their repertoire but it is still not as polished as it should be. That is not to say the South Africans don’t have the skills or personnel to go toe to toe in a battle of free-flowing rugby, it’s rather the game plan is not quite there yet.

Coach Rassie Erasmus faces a big call this week as his side readies for Scotland. Do they double down and bulk up further to bully the home side out of the game entirely, or, is this the right chance to show they can implement a smooth and silky game of rugby should they decide to.

England’s tactic was to try and best them in the tight stuff with some big boys, and they countered that well with the likes of Malcolm Marx and Duane Vermeulen not giving an inch. Against France, it was all-out heavy-weight warfare, and still that was rebuffed.

But, will this bulwark approach be appropriate when the battle is not brought to them in the trenches? Scotland will be happy to look for space, find the offload, throw a fifty-fifty and break the line a lot more than France and England combined, so if the Boks have their heads down in the dirty stuff, they could miss a lot of the action.

On the other hand, the old adage states that it all happens upfront so perhaps a bullying tactic could mitigate the Scots before they even get going.

Really though, while the Boks are still finding their groove ahead of the World Cup, it would be pertinent for them to show the other strings they have to their bow, and beat a team like Scotland with a game plan that is different from the first two matches, and hopefully even more effective.


The Mercury

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