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Wed Apr 16 09:26:45 SAST 2014

Boks to dazzle again like in 1984?

Craig Ray | 15 June, 2012 06:141 Comments
Pierre Spies during the South African national rugby team training session at St Stithians College on June 13, 2012 in Johannesburg
Image by: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

NONE of the current England squad are old enough to remember the last time their country played the Springboks at Ellis Park, which is undeniably a good thing.

The tourists, still nursing their bruises from last week's second-half battering by the Boks at King's Park, wouldn't appreciate what happened on June 9 1984.

Centre Danie Gerber, at the extreme height of his powers, scored a hat-trick of tries as the Boks trounced England 35-9. Gerber was all strength, speed and skill and those three tries are still among the finest of the 19 he scored in only 24 tests.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer could do worse than to show his team a video of that superb performance as motivation, but it is unlikely as he prefers to show the team video footage of its mistakes and strengths and of their opponents' weaknesses.

After an understandably nervy start to the test season last week, in which the Boks needed 40 minutes to settle down, the expectations for this team have grown.

England dominated the opening exchanges of the first test enough to have put some daylight between themselves and the Boks by halftime. But they couldn't breach a tight defence and, when the home team started knocking the English back at most collision points in the second half, there was only going to be one result.

England coach Stuart Lancaster has reshuffled his backline in an effort to ask more questions of the Boks with the ball in hand, but it is a case of shuffling the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

If England couldn't beat a Springbok team at sea level, with three days' preparation, four new caps and a new lock combination, their chances of saving the series tomorrow are as remote as Gerber pulling on the Bok jersey again.

Meyer has had another week to drill his game plan into the players. The crucial second-row pairing will also be over the first test nerves and the inclusion of Pat Lambie at fullback gives the Boks a greater cutting edge on attack.

The only danger facing the Boks is that they could be mentally fatigued, considering they had so much homework to do in the evenings, much to the horror of hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

"Johan van Graan's (Bok forwards coach) detail and video sessions are really well-organised, and the difficult thing is you have to go and study in the evenings," Du Plessis said.

"You have to learn new calls and new moves."

It does make you wonder what they did during the previous four years.

Lancaster was forced to make changes to his backline after centre, and former Sharks player, Brad Barritt, and fullback Mike Brown were ruled out with injuries, but playing the hulking Manu Tuilagi at inside centre is a gamble.

Tuilagi is as subtle as Julius Malema is diplomatic and, in the crucial role of decision-maker and distributor, he will come under pressure.

But, as always, it will be up front where the decisive moments of the match will occur and, with the Boks' unchanged pack, a superior scrum and a lineout that will also be better, they have the platform for a comfortable victory.

The result probably won't be as emphatic as it was 28 years ago, and the spectacle definitely won't be as aesthetically pleasing. But, barring a massive upset, it will be as satisfying.

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Boks to dazzle again like in 1984?

For Commenters Consideration | Please stick to the subject matter
Wed Apr 16 09:26:46 SAST 2014 ::

COMMENTS [1]

"If England couldn't beat a Springbok team at sea level..."

...caution, Mr Ray; the job has yet to be done!!!