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Boks have to finish


The last time the Boks failed to cross the whitewash on more than one occasion in 80 minutes was against the same England team in June, in South Africa

HARD YARDS: The Springbok team cannot afford to leave anything to chance when they take on the flambouyant and unpredictable French team on Saturday. Picture: BackpagePix

IF the Springboks are to make it seven wins in a row against France in Paris on Saturday, they are going to have to be far more clinical in finishing off the chances they create than was the case last weekend at Twickenham.

While Rassie Erasmus’ team did everything right to start their northern-hemisphere tour on a winning note – like dominate possession and territory and win most departments – their finishing cost them dearly as they went down 12-11 to England.

In fact, at half-time, having enjoyed 78 percent territory and 67 percent possession and with England reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when lock Maro Itoje was in the bin, the Boks should have just about been home and dry.

They didn’t capitalise on their strong position though and after 80 minutes had scored only one try. The last time the Boks failed to cross the whitewash on more than one occasion in 80 minutes was against the same England team in June, in South Africa.

Then, in the first Test at Ellis Park, the Boks scored four tries, but in the subsequent two Tests – at the Free State Stadium and Newlands – Rassie Erasmus’ team only managed one try per game.

In the Rugby Championship, having settled under the new coach and gotten to grips with his playing style and plan, the Boks scored 17 tries in six matches, and never less than two per game.

And while Tests against France in recent years have been far from the free-flowing affairs of yesteryear, Erasmus will certainly want an improved effort from his men on attack this weekend. Of course, it didn’t help that the Boks battled on their attacking line-out close to the England line, something which will, hopefully, have been sorted out in the last few days; while the arrival in the squad this week of the more dynamic Faf de Klerk is also sure to boost the team’s nippiness around the scrums, rucks and mauls.

Different energy

De Klerk wasn’t available last week and while Ivan van Zyl did little wrong in his first start in the green and gold, the former Lions player, who now runs out for Sale in England, will bring a different energy to the side. He was, after all, called “a little buzz-saw” by England coach Eddie Jones in June.

The availability, too, of fullback Willie le Roux, who has become a key man in the Boks’ attacking game under Erasmus, will also give the team a greater attacking threat from deep. While young Damian Willemse, like Van Zyl, performed well at Twickenham, Le Roux’s experience, unpredictability and kick-pass game – when popping up in the flyhalf channel – was missed by the Boks last weekend.

The poor handling of last Saturday will also almost certainly be much-improved this week, with the players having shaken off the cobwebs, many of whom last played several weeks ago before last week’s Test.

Meanwhile, a small matter that has gone almost unnoticed about the loss to England is the fact it was the first Test this year, and with Erasmus in charge, that the Boks didn’t concede a try. All England’s points came via penalty kicks. In all 10 previous Tests this season the Boks conceded at least one try.

Last six results against France:

18 November 2017 (Paris)

France 17-18 South Africa

24 June 2017 (Johannesburg)

South Africa 35-12 France

17 June 2017 (Durban)

South Africa 37-15 France

10 June 2017 (Pretoria)

South Africa 37-14 France

23 November 2013 (Paris)

France 10-19 South Africa

12 June 2010 (Cape Town)

South Africa 42-17 France