Meyer wants more from Boks
A 21 point win over the Pumas in their opening match of The Castle Rugby Championship was more than should have been hoped for from the Springboks, but coach Heyneke Meyer is a perfectionist and there were enough imperfections at Newlands to trouble him.
Unsurprisingly, one of them was his team’s failure to pick up a four try bonus point when it appeared there for the taking during a second half where the Boks were dominant but were prevented by poor finishing from crossing the line when they were clearly chasing the fourth try. The only try after halftime, where the Boks led 20-6, came from Bryan Habana, who capped a fine performance by comfortably winning the battle in the air from a Morne Steyn cross kick to dot down in the corner.
That and Steyn’s conversion provided the only points of the second half, although in the Bok defence, they did eschew several kickable penalty attempts in favour of going for the try. Had they kicked just some of those goals they might have stretched the lead further, though whether that would have had an impact on a Pumas team seemingly content with damage limitation in their first outing at this level of competition is debatable.
Normally when a team builds up the points it causes the opposing side to become more desperate and thus throw more into an attempt to close down the gap, thus presenting their opponents with more opportunities. But that doesn’t appear to count for Argentina, who did try and break out a few times towards the end but who seemed more inclined to safety first tactics even when it was clear they weren’t going to win.
“It was good to start with a win and I thought we played well but I am a difficult guy to please and there were things I wasn’t happy with,” said Meyer afterwards.
“Obviously we would like to have got the bonus point as it was there for us to take. I would have loved to pick up four tries, but this is test match rugby. We played the right rugby, and in the first half we did what we set out to do by scoring points when we went into their half. It’s all about building an innings. But towards the end our finishing wasn’t good and we are going to need to work on that.”
As already mentioned, however, the Pumas did seem to be putting a big effort into their defensive game at the expense of any attempt to be innovative on attack – apart from a good maul and an accurate field kicking game they don’t have much else that looks likely to trouble the big southern hemisphere teams – and without saying it directly, Meyer did appear to concede that.
“We don’t want to be seen to be making excuses, but the Pumas were very good on defence. It’s something they clearly have worked hard at. I was particularly pleased with our own defence though. The Pumas were unable to score a try in the match, and that was good, for defence was something we were concerned about after the England series.
“I thought there were one or two tries we should have scored and gone for the four try bonus point, but in the end this team is still improving and that is what most pleases me.”
An area that Meyer can definitely pinpoint for improvement is the accuracy at the breakdowns, and one of the main reasons his team wasn’t able to score four tries was because for much of that second half the ball they got was static because of the Pumas’ success at spoiling.
“They did succeed in slowing our ball down and that is definitely something we are going to need to work on going forward. We just never got enough quick ball to really put an effective attacking game together.”
That is disturbing if you consider how dominant the Boks were in the tight forwards. Andries Bekker lived up to the hype of his return to test match rugby by commanding the lineout battle, and the scrumming was one of the things that Meyer was particularly chuffed about as the Pumas have a big reputation as a scrumming nation.
“Our lineouts were good but I would like to see us contesting more consistently. We didn’t start off contesting that well, but then later in the game it came together. Hopefully the next time we play we will see that for the full 80 minutes,” said the coach.
The Boks flew out on Sunday for Argentina, where they play the Pumas in their next Championship match in Mendoza on Saturday. They left without Bismarck du Plessis, with the hooker being ruled out for the rest of the year with a serious knee ligament injury.