Forget licking wounds. South Africa have arrived in London vowing to address their loss to Ireland in a forensic manner aimed at restoring order to the Springbok machine.
The Boks should not have lost in Dublin on Saturday night and they know it. As rugby union becomes more and more au fait with statistics, some have a higher value than others. Heyneke Meyer’s men held the advantage in possession and territory 60-40 but that does not guarantee success; however, domination of the set piece, including six turnovers on your opponents’ ball, should.
“It is probably a little like chess in that if you have the most pieces on the board and your queen is creating havoc you think you are in the box seat, but if your king falls you lose the game,” said the South African tight head Jannie du Plessis, who is as engaging off the pitch as he is in the scrum.
The message from the Boks camp was clear. Too many basic errors in damp conditions (although, it must be said, not one drop of rain fell during the game) had hamstrung all their attacking opportunities and the clinical edge they brought to their post-mortem was lacking in their play.
That, however, is not something they will allow to happen on successive weekends when they pitch up at Twickenham on Saturday.
“The one area where we were very good as the top team in the whole world was the breakdown and we weren’t as accurate as we wanted to be, so that will be a focus point for us [leading into the England game],” said 118-cap second row Victor Matfield.
“I also think ball up here [in the northern hemisphere] is a bit slower, so you probably need one or two more numbers at the breakdown so that’s something we’ll look at. In these conditions the breakdown is a different animal and something we’re not used to in the south is players kicking [their feet] in the ruck to make it a mess. We’ll have a big focus point on that this week.”
The Boks have promised to adapt, but the weather may yet be England’s best asset against them.Reuse content