Boks will have to brush up on the breakdown, reduce errors

Ireland’s Joe McCarthy of Ireland is gang-tackled by the Springboks during the first Test at Loftus on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Ireland’s Joe McCarthy of Ireland is gang-tackled by the Springboks during the first Test at Loftus on Saturday. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 8, 2024


The Springboks got over the line against arch-rivals Ireland in Pretoria but the visitors arguably finished the stronger team. Coach Rassie Erasmus knows his team must improve to win in Durban on Saturday. Mike Greenaway looks at five areas where the Boks can get better.

Reduce the unforced errors

We understand that the Boks are trying to evolve their playing style but they need greater accuracy in handling and decision-making. Too many passes were forced. Attack coach Tony Brown will say that this will diminish the more the team plays, and it needs to because charity from the South Africans allowed the Irish to get back into the game. At times, the Boks were also clumsy at the restarts and to fail to secure a kick-off after you have scored is criminal.

A better balance between the old and the new

Following on from the above, we saw too much of the new approach of getting the ball wide for big loose forwards in Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit to make inroads against smaller defenders. It was good to see but the Boks must not forget their DNA. Taking the ball up via route one, with massive physicality, won the Boks the World Cup. The All Black style of play is perfect for the All Blacks and while the Boks should pinch some of that approach, it must not become their bread and butter.


Months after the World Cup, South Africans will still singing Handre Pollard’s praises because of his ice-cool kicking, and rightly so, but it was tempting fate to suggest he is flawless. It was like the stock market going through the roof for months and then hitting a crash.

The flyhalf missed three kicks at Loftus, two of which were gimmees by his standards and it is strange to be talking about Pollard, and not Manie Libbok, almost costing the Boks because of inaccurate goal-kicking. Those misses confirm that Pollard is, in fact, mortal, but the Bok fans will hope he gives his boots a good polish this week because another tight game is certain.

First half scrumming

It is not often that you see Frans Malherbe under pressure in the set scrums but that was achieved by Ireland loosehead Andre Porter. The latter had a torrid time in his previous visit to Loftus, with Leinster, when Wilco Louw got stuck into him, but he had a happy return. Siya Kolisi has often said that the front row doing duty in the first half does the hard work for the Bomb Squad but if there is set-piece ascendancy in the first half, the Bombers can run riot.

Brush up on the breakdown

The more attacking game the Boks want to play thrives on quick ruck ball but they were often messy at the breakdown. The Irish are masters of slowing the ball down, with Munster streetfighter Peter O’Mahony a past master. The Boks were also penalised a few times at the breakdown. They have to find a way this week to subdue O’Mahony and his crew at ruck time.