by Fanie Heyns

South Africa beats Samoa

Can Springboks now face Rugby Championship with confidence?

Willie le Roux gave the Springboks an attacking edge a ginst Samoa
Williele Roux.jpg

After their emphatic 56-23 win against the Pacific Islanders, many fans pose the question: “Who is Samoa anyway?” The job, as Springbok rugby coach, remains one of the hottest seats in the world sport.

Just consider the mixed reaction after South Africa’s comprehensive drubbing of Samoa in the final of the Four Nation Tournament final. If South Africa had beaten Samoa by five points, they would have been dismissed as no-hopers. Had they lost, people would have told them that they needed to be relegated to the league of international second stringers.

Let’s be frank and earnest. South Africa answered their detractors in style and left their critics a bit bewildered at the pace of their game and their willingness to attack spaced out wide.

Not only did they score eight tries but the manner of those tries suggest that South Africa has unearthed some very talented and gifted attackers out wide in JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux, Jan Serfontein and even Bjorn Basson.

The Springboks also played with more accuracy and intensity at the breakdowns, where Francois Louw and Willem Alberts were sensational and Flip van der Merwe a revelation. Van der Merwe was used as number five lock and fulfilled the role to perfection.

Ruan Pienaar improved his service and his quickness of delivery was a 50% improvement on his mediocre effort against Scotland the week before.

Will South Africa approach the opening two games of the Castle Rugby Championship against Argentina with more confidence in August?

Definitely, as Argentina was below par in their game against England recently. South Africa knows the Argentinean tactic of flooding the breakdown where they had the Springboks in disarray in 2012 and almost won the game at home in Argentina, before a late try by Francois Steyn saved the day.

The Boks even have to improve on their effort against Samoa if they are to start with a convincing win against their tough Argentinean opponents.

One of the most worrying aspects of the Boks’ campaign is that local Super Rugby derbies will drain the energy of many senior Springbok players and it could even cut a swathe through available national resources.

In reviewing the June series, South Africa lacks reserve strength at tighthead prop, number five lock, number six flank, flyhalf and eighth man.

Pierre Spies was not convincing at number eight, while Jannie du Plessis flattered to deceive as tighthead prop.

Loss of form and loss to injury has restricted the available number 10 players who could fill the gap if Morné Steyn should get injured. Steyn will also know that his goal kicking was not up to standard on Saturday.

The refereeing was also not of a world-class standard and the Boks will need a more pedantic 31st man on the field to take control of the matches against Argentina. Their ability to spoil breakdown possession contributes to their defensive success.

The exodus of top-players to Japan is also cause for concern.

Heinrich Brüssow’s decision to ply his trade in Japan is a setback, although the national coach, Heyneke Meyer, might not agree.

Marcell Coetzee is not in the same league as a number six flanker as Louw and if the Springboks lose Louw, their chances of a successful Castle Rugby Championship campaign will be dramatically reduced.

Yet, in spite of these concerns, Meyer should be applauded with many of his team selections.

When the Springboks selected H.O. de Villiers in 1967 against France, it marked the dawn of a new era in Springbok rugby. It was an era of adventurous fullback counter offences.

Willie Le Roux might not be in the same class as H.O. yet but he possesses excellent vision and his pinpoint distribution contributed to at least three tries against the Samoans on Saturday.

Engelbrecht scored a superb individualistic try and if he can improve his defensive effort, he could pose a long-term threat to the incumbent, Juan de Jongh, who suffered an injury setback prior to the June internationals.

The dog fight between Adriaan Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis for the hooker position in the starting team is set to continue in July in the Super Rugby local showdowns.

Strauss improved markedly against Samoa but Du Plessis is still regaining full fitness after a long injury layoff.

Du Plessis is a world-class player when he is at the peak of his considerable powers.

Strauss is a ball carrier of note and a great warrior.

For South African rugby, it would be beneficial if these two will continue their high-intensity rivalry for the pivotal position in the middle of the scrum.

The New Zealand team laid down a marker with their magnificent 30-0 demolition job of France in their test series.

The quick release of possession, straight running and excellent use of the inside-step or inside-runner characterized their attacking play.

Can South Africa repeat the heroic performance by England late last year when they stunned the All Blacks?

A win is within the realms of possibility if South Africa can improve their accuracy and maintain their tempo and momentum for 80 minutes. They went off the boil for a period after half time against Samoa on Saturday. Against New Zealand such a lapse of concentration might prove to be a fatal.  

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