Springboks / 3 September 2019, 12:00pm / Wynona Louw
CAPE TOWN – Yeah, we get it - Rugby Championship results mean close to nothing in a World Cup year. In fact, history would suggest that these results mean absolutely nothing at all.
But when it comes to confidence and belief, I believe those results - albeit in a truncated competition where most teams are focused on experimenting - do carry some weight, especially for the Springboks.
But the championship standings will return to “zero” status if Rassie Erasmus and Co don’t carry most of the positives they showed against New Zealand, Argentina and Australia into their World Cup campaign in Japan - starting on Friday, when they face the host nation in their final warm-up before they kick off their World Cup proceedings against the Kiwis in Yokohama on September 21.
Similarly, one would also hope that they’ve managed to touch up on the areas they didn’t pass with the same bright, flying colours.
So, here are two areas (one to maintain and one to fix) that can ensure the Springboks’ Rugby Championship success stays relevant during the World Cup.
Sure, it took some time to come together, and if you had to look at the Boks’ defensive performances during the Incoming Tour against England last year, you’d never have tipped the area as one that could be a key weapon at the Word Cup.
The Springboks did well on defence during the Rugby Championship, and the pressure they put opposition under with their rush defence also created some good turnover opportunities. Those turnover opportunities set them up for a number of tries - something that could be key for the Boks during the World Cup, especially considering how many of their tries were ‘opportunistic’ ones.
Any team’s rush defence comes with the risk of attacking players breaking the line, but the Boks have also produced solid displays on the scramble.
Some players have been guilty of shooting out of line at times, but as with anything, it should get better with time.
While the Boks scored some good tries during the championship, many were the result of a moment of individual brilliance. Not that there’s anything wrong with a solo effort, but at times the Boks didn’t exactly have fans daydreaming about their attacking prowess.
When the New Zealanders took a seven-point lead with fewer than 10 minutes to go, you’d have been forgiven for leaving your seat thinking it was over. Even though they had a good start, the Boks never really looked threatening when it came to the possibility of scoring tries - it didn’t appear to be their ticket to victory. But then Cheslin Kolbe and Herschel Jantjies intervened, with Jantjies stunning the home crowd to get the draw.
Like a number of other areas, the Boks’ attack is a work in progress.
It’s not too uncommon to hear those in rugby say Tests - and by extension World Cups - are won with good defence. And if that’s the recipe Rassie is banking on, then their chances look pretty good.
But more edge on attack could do them no harm. Such an edge - combined with that rush defence - would make them a pretty mean unit in Japan.