DURBAN – The Springboks’ end-of-year tour got off to the worst possible start at Twickenham at the weekend. Mike Greenaway looks at five ways Rassie Erasmus can get his team back on track against France at the Stade de France on Saturday (10.05pm kickoff).
Bring back Faf post haste:
The Boks missed the energy and mongrel of Faf de Klerk, in particular. Ivan van Zyl did not exactly have a shocker, but he wasn’t great either. With just one previous start for the Boks he could not be expected to control the game, and he didn’t.
He was picked ahead of Embrose Papier apparently because he has a superior tactical kicking game. Some of his kicks gave the runners time to contest, but many didn’t. De Klerk, nicknamed “the little buzzsaw” by England coach Eddie Jones in June, will make a huge difference in Paris.
Move Duane back to No 8:
It is not that Warren Whiteley had a poor game, in fact he made some deft passes and telling tackles. Duane Vermeulen, though, was fairly ineffective by his standards in a position he had never played before.
Vermeulen terrorised England in June from No 8, the position in which he has played 42 of his 43 Tests, and he probably would have done the same at the weekend had he been in his familiar position. He must play No 8 against France, even if Whiteley has to pay the price.
Pieter-Steph must play flank:
Bok coach Erasmus argued that he had to move Pieter-Steph du Toit back to lock because of the unavailability of Franco Mostert, and that RG Snyman was a No 4 lock and thus could not be combined effectively with Eben Etzebeth.
The problem is that Du Toit was exceptional in the No 7 jersey in the Rugby Championship, and he was very good there once more when he moved to blindside flank in the second half at Twickenham.
Etzebeth is out injured this week but Mostert is back and he can partner Snyman, freeing up Du Toit for a return to the position in which he is most effective.
Cut out the sloppy mistakes:
When the Boks do their match analysis today they will kick themselves when they see how much good work was undone by schoolboy errors, especially in a first half in which they had 75 percent of territory and 67 percent of possession.
The Boks were so dominant that England had to make 88 tackles to 30, yet there was only two points between the team at halftime (8-6.) England were kept in the game by clumsy handling errors, a lack of patience on attack and, of course, disastrous line-out deliveries.
Decision-making was also dreadful at times, but this should improve with the return of the experienced players who were not eligible for this match.
Fix the lineouts:
Poor Malcolm Marx had a nightmare, with his overcooked lineout throws contributing significantly to the Boks’ woes. Off days happen to the best of hookers, just as goal kickers occasionally struggle to find their groove.
Marx was struggling with all facets of his game and the longer he stayed on the worse he got. Why didn’t the coach take him off and put him out of his misery? It is no disgrace to have a bad day.
The coach erred in not bringing on Bongi Mbonambi much earlier. Also, the Boks should not have persisted with throwing to the back of the lineout instead of the safer options in the front and middle.