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Boks up the ante

The Springboks must be complimented for stepping up and playing with more direction, pace and purpose against Argentina over the weekend.

The Boks mustered nine tries, two of which were from the mauling tactic and one through an interception. The remaining dot-downs were scored as a consequence of effective attacking play with ball-in-hand.

I believe that the major difference in the Bok attack was the speed with which they played, particularly in the second stanza when Fourie du Preez replaced Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf.

The speed in rugby is on the ball. It starts with the speed from the base and here the scrumhalf plays a very important role.

Du Preez was highly impressive during his 28-minute cameo with speed and accuracy evident in his arsenal. I’m of the opinion that his game is even faster than when he last played in South Africa.

Conversely, scrumhalves that are slow to get to the ball and sluggish in their service, in turn place significant pressure on a team’s attack. Every second wasted, affords the opposition time to organise themselves on defence.

I’m a firm believer that if a team aims to attack effectively, they need to play with pace and precision so that the opposing defence is disorganised and out of position.

As a scrumhalf, it’s crucial that you hit each breakdown as quickly as possible. However, just as important in my book, is that the ball travels from nine to ten for most of the game.

Through analysis, I have observed that teams which play conservative rugby pass the ball from nine to a forward over 80 per cent of the time.

Subsequently, this tactic is easy to defend against as the opposing team is aware that their opponents will most frequently make use of one-off runners.

However, should the ball reach the flyhalf channel more regularly, there is an increased potency to a team’s attack. The No 10 can choose to strike close, middle or wide depending on the options made available to him by the supporting players.

Another significant factor which enabled the Springboks to speed up the game this past weekend was the fact that the Pumas had to play with 14 men for a quarter of the match.

I believe that the yellow card system requires an urgent review.

It has become too easy for referees to use the sin-bin for infringements, which they feel have an effect on the game at the time.

On Saturday, for example, when Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazu knocked the ball down intentionally, I believe a penalty try would have constituted sufficient punishment.

In my view, penalising a team twice for the same infringement is messing up the game and has a major effect on the outcome of matches.

As a solution, the lawmakers should perhaps look at a professional penalty in the red zone (22m) being worth four points. As such, teams will then be mindful of not over-stepping the mark when they are on defence inside their 22.

If the IRB intends to retain the yellow card, I believe that the dismissed player should subsequently be replaced. However, after two yellow cards, the binned player is then automatically banned for one match.

Turning to Saturday’s return leg in Mendoza, I predict a far more competitive encounter.

The Pumas would have learned that if you don’t front up physically to the Boks for 80 minutes, you will be punished. The hosts will have to ensure that they are more abrasive on both attack and defence.

However, the Boks demonstrated this past Saturday that they possess the players required to employ a direct, confrontational game as well as a fast, ball-in-hand attacking approach.

To prove successful this Saturday, the Pumas will need to play at a faster pace, move the ball around quicker and ultimately identify space if they have any hope of beating the Boks.

Post your comments and questions below and follow me on Twitter @alanzondagh.

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