by Fanie Heyns

On their way to domination

Dawn of a new great Springbok era

Heyneke Meyer
HeynekeMeyernew.jpg

It may be too early to talk about the dawn of a new great Springbok era, but there were promising signs in the victory against England. England had arguably its best opportunity to catch the ‘underprepared’ Boks in the first half, but it was denied in the second half by the Green and Gold's aggression and excellent cohesion of its forwards. It can just get better for the South African team. 

South Africa beat England 17-12 in the first test at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, and the forwards' domination and control in the second half had the Roses constantly in retreat and disarray. 
Early on, the Boks lacked accuracy and speed at the collisions and the rucks which, at times, allowed England to slow down the game through counter-shoving. 


Francois Hougaard sometimes erred with his decision-making and slow delivery to the backline. 

Afterward, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said: “I said to the forwards they have to get stuck in better because I wanted to up the tempo. They responded and we got better clean outs and our ball carriers got into the game. When that happened, I felt there were times we played some brilliant rugby. 
“I was very happy with the loose forwards. I think they were important in our winning the game. 
“Willem (Alberts) was brilliant. I spoke to him during Super Rugby and told him he was going to start and I wanted him to be at his best. He was awesome.  


"Marcell Coetzee, starting his first test, was unbelievable. People criticised that selection, but he showed his class. Pierre (Spies) had one of his better test matches as well. They’ll get better as a combination the more they play together,” he added. (Source: www.keo.co.za)  

The increased tempo of the game in the second half, a fine scrumhalf performance by substitute Ruan Pienaar, and excellent execution through tries by Jean de Villiers and Morné Steyn, contributed to the Springbok win. 
South Africa defended expertly for most of the match, and the only England try came after the siren had sounded. 
Where South Africa needs greater improvement, however, is in the use of its wings and fullback as well as speedy loose forwards to exploit small openings in the defensive line. That is where New Zealand showcased its class against Ireland the past weekend. Australia, particularly Will Genia, displayed that X-factor against Wales as the Wallabies won 28-19. 
If Genia had not been part of the Australian team, the Wallabies might have struggled to beat the current Six Nations champion. 
It is a pity the Boks did not have a Gio Aplon on the bench, as Wynand Olivier simply does not possess the qualities to unlock the opposition. 
When Bryan Habana came off after a magnificent performance, Olivier replaced him – but the difference was palpable. 
All the other substitutions worked perfectly well, as Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Flip van der Merwe played with vigour and passion and added to South Africa’s scrum domination. 
Can this South African team record a whitewash against England by winning the next test on Saturday, and the third on 23 June? There is no reason for them not to. The Boks have now won their last eight test matches against England, and will grow in stature and confidence as the series continues. 
It looks as if Meyer will stick with the team who was selected on Saturday. Two senior stalwarts, Habana and De Villiers, were standout performers; while Alberts and Bismarck du Plessis also excelled, particularly with the ball in hand. Du Plessis manufactured some great turnovers. 
De Villiers is one of those players who may blossom with the additional responsibility of being captain, and it will not be easy for outside centres such as JJ Engelbrecht, Paul Jordaan or Juan de Jongh to replace him in the starting 15. 
Frans Steyn needs more time in the structure to produce his best performance, while Hougaard possesses the X-factor and is able to score tries with his vision and skills. This England team was superb during the Six Nations series and has some class and skill, but it will possibly need changes to add some bulk and skills among its forwards. This Bok team fielded three inexperienced forwards in Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger and Coetzee.  
Etzebeth and Kruger replaced two legendary Springboks in Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, but showed plenty promise on Saturday. Etzebeth has the presence, the;
Yet, the Boks need to be a tad more proactive on England’s's;
Steyn has had a mediocre season with the boot (judging by his high standards) and he would like to improve his accuracy in order to put more pressure on England’s forwards, who specialise in slowing down ruck possession.  
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