This is how the Boks can beat Italy
The battle of the packs has been the major talking point all week long, so if the Springboks don’t come at the Italians hard in that regard in their World Cup clash in Fukuroi today, then they’d be setting themselves up for failure, I would imagine.
Earlier this week, Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot and head coach Rassie Erasmus spoke at length about the challenge the Azzurri will pose up front, with Erasmus making it clear just how big he thinks that test will be by going with a six-two split on the bench. He also admitted that the decision could force him to use a loose forward in the backline should they pick up two or more injuries among those with double digits on their jumpers. So, it’s pretty clear how big an emphasis is being placed on the battle of the packs.
Against Namibia last week, the Boks were brutal at scrum time, smooth at the lineouts and showed a massive improvement in their mauling performance - something that was a bit of an issue in their opener against New Zealand. But that was Namibia, and producing the same quality of performance up front against a much stronger team (one that needs little schooling when it comes to the set-piece) is going to be key.
2. Strong finishing
This was a problem against Namibia. Yes, the Boks had almost all the possession in the first half and the conditions weren’t the easiest when it came to handling, so naturally a few handling errors would slip in.
But those conditions won’t plague them alone today - it’s going to be a challenge for Italy as well.
Point is, whoever handles the slippery oval - especially with wet weather expected - better, will certainly have an advantage. There is no point in expecting the forwards to put in a gigantic shift if it’s just going to result in the ball ending up in touch and penalties being conceded.
3. Breakdown brawn and brains
The nightmare of Padova was heavily influenced on the ground, with the Italians flooding the breakdowns and the Boks’ inability to adapt. That was far from the only thing that went wrong in that 2016 Test in Florence, but it’s no doubt one that needs to go better at Shizuoka Stadium today.
4. A tactically savvy display
That tactical horror show that screened at certain stages in Yokohama during the Boks’ match against the All Blacks can be nowhere to be seen today. Nowhere.
In that game, halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard had certainly seen better days with the boot, with De Klerk’s box kicks again proving to be problematic, while Pollard also produced a few blunders where his touchfinders were concerned.
A strong tactical display, combined with accurate goal-kicking is going to be big. A game can come down to two points, and missing a sitter and then having your World Cup hopes flushed because of that misdirected kick would be a rather unpleasant way to bow out.
Those kicks at goal and accurate tactical punts are going to be vital.
5. Go for 80
Pretty self-explanatory. A strong start will be just as important as a strong finish. Likewise, the Boks need to sustain that effort throughout the match and find a way to keep going later in the game. Against Namibia, the Boks, although they had a number of replacements come on in the latter stages of the game, could have done much more against a Namibia side that was down to 14 men, but they only managed a single try.