South Africa Springboks Rugby News

Lack of game time & cohesion could upset Boks

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The touring British and Irish Lions expressed the view shortly after their arrival in South Africa that the Springboks might be underdone for the first Test in Durban on June 20 and a remark by Springbok head coach Peter de Villiers this week gave further impetus to the Lions hopes in this regard.


While Sharks and 2007 Springbok captain Johann Muller on Thursday said that the Springboks would have to prepare “smartly” in the remaining time available as this is, as he put it, a “very, very good Lions team,” De Villiers admitted that he would have liked more time to prepare for the series and added that it had not been possible because of time constraints.


The Boks, judging by a remark from De Villiers, will have the first 20 minutes of the first Test to gel after having last played together on the year-end UK tour.


“We have the first 20 minutes of the first Test, thereafter there can be no excuses,” De Villiers said.


One only has to see the progress made by the Lions in their sharpness and that’s excluding their gelling as a team with players from four countries to realise that the lack of game time could cost the Springboks.


Jaque Fourie, if he is selected for the first Test, will have his first run onto a field in exactly ten weeks since being injured in New Zealand in the Super 14 competition. He did not play in the Lions’ last five Super Rugby matches.


Ruan Pienaar, by the time the first Test comes along on June 20, will have played one match and 119 minutes since his injury against the Reds in Australia.


Jean de Villiers has also not seen action since the Stormers’ tour of Australasia and the same goes for Stormers team mate Schalk Burger, if one excludes their second-half run as replacements against the Namibian XV on Friday.


Frans Steyn and Andries Bekker have been laid low for shorter periods, but will also not have had any game time before the Tests arrive.


Deon Carstens at least had a good run against the Lions on Wednesday and played well but does not seem fully fit yet.


Add to that the fact that the Bulls, after winning the Super 14 final, were given last week off, and it seems certain that the Boks will be a little “underdone” in respect of game time in the case of some players and team cohesion generally. Two weeks ago De Villiers referred to this.


“When we went to the UK after the Currie Cup last year, in which all the guys played for their home unions, the synergy was not there in the first game.”


Assistant Lions coach Warren Gatland earlier on in the tour said the Lions hoped for a possible slow start by South Africa but did not plan for it. This statement was prompted by the fact that the Springboks have not played together since the year-end UK tour.


He did, however, stress that the fact that the Bulls were in a final which will bring recent experience of a big game and confidence which could balance out any rustiness they might have and said that the great talent and depth of South African rugby could overcome this potential weakness.


Whether 20 minutes will be enough to gel, is however a very debatable statement – especially in view of the lack of game time and as some players may be selected in positions they have not played in for some time.

 

It has been learnt, that two 40-minute matches against the Emerging Springboks was part of the cram towards match fitness planned by Springboks head coach Peter de Villiers – but being behind closed doors (or gates) there is no way of knowing whether it took place or are still to be played.

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