Bok attack looking to improve
Springbok assistant coach Johan van Graan believes his team’s attacking options will show a significant improvement this weekend when they face Australia in their Castle Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld.
The Boks go into their home game under pressure, thanks to mixed results and a public disillusionment with both team selections and the style of rugby the team is playing at the moment.
But Van Graan, who also is the team’s attack coach, believes the Boks have shown much progression since they started in June, and after their dominant performance in Dunedin against the World Champions New Zealand, need to be more clinical in finishing off the chances they create.
In Dunedin the Boks dominated all the stats, and made more opportunities against the All Blacks than many teams do in an entire test series. But their lack of finishing, both with the boot in kickable penalties, and with the try-scoring opportunities they had, ultimately cost them the game.
While much has been said about their game plan, the Bok management insists it is more about option-taking, which at times has not been good. Players need to make the right decisions on the field, with Van Graan again reminding all that the team needs to make better decisions in situations to convert pressure into points.
“I don’t think you can pinpoint it on one thing, we are creating opportunities, all four teams in the competition are creating quite a few opportunities,” Van Graan said.
“Defensively teams are getting a lot better, teams are scrambling quite well, we can only control what we can control and that is converting more opportunities into points.
“We had quite a few opportunities in Dunedin and in Perth that should have been points; we had a good look at it. It’s about the team gelling and making better decisions. We are working hard on it and hopefully it will come right over the weekend.”
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Despite a load of criticism about the game plan and the “predictability” of the Boks, there has been a lot of improvement, something that was apparent in Dunedin and which saw the young pack take a big step up and surprise against the more experienced New Zealanders.
Van Graan pointed out that the Boks had made a few tweaks since Perth and that they were looking forward to taking another step forward this weekend.
“I thought against Australia in Perth we might have been a bit predictable, especially our second runners. If you watched the New Zealand test closely there were one or two tweaks -- Frans Steyn got a lot of momentum in the first channel on Aaron Cruden,” Van Graan explained.
“The cleaners were there, on our second runner there were some other options that we used that got us over the advantage line quickly. It was only one test match and it worked quite well and it is something we trained yesterday, we are hoping to improve.
“Australia and New Zealand invite you into the 15 metres and they like to counter-ruck you there and create slow ball and then press you in the midfield. We’ve worked hard with our outside backs in their decision making and hopefully it will be better this weekend.
“Against the All Blacks I was very proud of the performance of the team and of what we want to achieve. It is no easy feat having 58 per cent territory and 52 per cent possession against New Zealand in New Zealand.”
Van Graan said he was looking forward to an 80 minute performance against the Aussies.
“The Wallabies pose a different threat especially on their reverse line, guys like Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley have given us some trouble there,” he said.
“We’ve improved in those areas, attack and defence, we improved set piece wise and hopefully our kicking game can be spot on over the weekend. It would be great to have an 80 minute performance at Loftus.
“This is the Springboks and we want to make the country proud and we also want to show that we can compete with the best in the world and hopefully become the best team in the world.”