Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says they are “focused on holding on to the ball” and making sure they don’t “just give it away” when they host the All Blacks at Newlands today (kick-off 5.05pm SS1).
And that’s great to hear, because in Albany, when the Boks were humbled 57-0 by the New Zealanders, their ball retention was a sorry sight.
They failed to look after the ball and, of course, the All Blacks needed no invitation to pounce on that and string together a few potent counter-attacking displays.
In the build-up to the Newlands Test, Coetzee also said they’ve worked on their ball retention, but I really hope “holding onto the ball” doesn’t mean that the Boks are going to try and play tighter, more structured, more conservatively today and keep the kind of game that will see them setting up phase after phase with no room for the improved interplay and width we’ve seen from them recently.
“The pleasing thing is we created those opportunities. The important thing is players understand the next action won’t always lead to a try. We’re focused on making sure we hold onto the ball, we cannot just give it away.”
Look, I understand that Coetzee’s main focus now is to prevent another one-sided try-fest, and who can blame him after Albany and two Rugby Championship draws against a Wallabies side also trying to find their rhythm? It makes complete sense.
But it also makes sense to continue working on their new attacking path, and reverting to a “safer” approach may, or it may not, help them to limit the damage in Cape Town today. But how will that help them in the long run if they really want to make the change? Besides, it’s not like the Kiwis can’t adapt to any game.
According to the Bok coach, his team has learnt how to deal with the pressure.
“Some of our guys played the All Blacks for the first time and faced the haka for the first timeand all those little things. But this week we’re looking for a collective performance and we want to respect the ball. We’ve made an effort to make sure we hold onto it.
“We have to fix the problems we had in Albany. We’ve also worked hard at scrummaging this week, so hopefully we’ll see an improvement there.”
Against the Wallabies, the Boks showed good variation at the lineout, as they involved their backs and alternated standard lineouts with short ones.
But when asked if they were going to keep it simple against the All Blacks, Coetzee didn’t want to give anything away, and said: “The plan is to get the ball, it doesn’t matter the options, we just need to get the ball. There’s a lot of quality in our lineout.”
He also said he is hoping for a solid impact from the bench.
“Normally this competition takes its toll in the last game, the bench has always played their part and I’m looking for that impact from them.”