The Springboks need to harness their strength at the lineout to better effect against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
In the aftermath of South Africa’s dramatic 30-23 win in Nelspruit, coach Allister Coetzee admitted that his side had underperformed. Argentina put the Boks under pressure at the collisions and breakdowns. They forced the Boks to make mistakes, and right up until the 79th minute, they appeared to be on course for a deserved victory.
It’s for this reason that the Boks will travel to Salta without much confidence and momentum. They will need to address their individual shortcomings as well as their lack of synergy in the space of a few days. It’s a tough ask.
Perhaps they would be better off focusing on their strengths at the lineout. After one round in the Rugby Championship, the Boks lead the stats for lineouts won (eight from nine). They made one lineout steal in Nelspruit.
The All Blacks have set the standard at this key set piece over the past few years. It wasn’t surprising to see New Zealand winning four of their five lineouts in Sydney last week, and stealing a whopping three when it was the Wallabies’ turn to feed.
The All Blacks remain the leaders in this area of the game, and in many others. However, there is, as the stats from last week’s Test in Nelspruit and the preceding Super Rugby tournament indicate, a reason for the Boks to back their lineout a lot more in the next game against Argentina.
Providing there are no further injuries, the Boks will have the personnel to be a force on attack and defence at this set piece. Lood de Jager has excelled as a jumper in the middle of the lineout this season, while Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit have stolen a lot of ball. The Boks also have good options at the back of the lineout in Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley.
According to SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta powered stats, Whiteley won four lineouts against Argentina and is ranked No 1 in the Rugby Championship in this category. During the Super Rugby tournament, the De Jager-inspired Cheetahs topped the stats for lineout wins, while a Stormers set piece that included Etzebeth and Du Toit made the most steals.
This is significant in the context of a battle with the Argentinians. They may boast a reputation for their scrummaging, but their lineout play in 2016 has left a lot to be desired.
The Jaguares were ranked as low as 10th in the recent Super Rugby competition for lineout wins, and eighth for steals. In their first Rugby Championship match against the Boks last week, the Pumas battled to deal with the hosts at this set piece.
The Boks must play to their lineout strengths in Salta this coming Saturday. They should look to drive the Pumas back with their kicking game, and then back their locks to contest and force the turnover.
Of course, this strategy will hinge on an improved tactical-kicking display. Last week, the Boks’ kicking game (as well as the chase) was not on point. The Boks won just 45% of the territory.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images