Handre solo at Twickers

Vlok Cilliers

Handre Pollard’s boot will have a big say in deciding whether South Africa makes a winning start to the November tour at Twickenham on Saturday.

After a narrow loss against Wales in June, the Rassie Erasmus era got wins against England in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, as the 9-10-15 combination of Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux controlled the contest with a higher volume of kicks.

But the result went England’s way at Newlands in the third Test when De Klerk was picked next to Elton Jantjies and Warrick Gelant for a total of 25 kicks, while England scrumhalf Ben Youngs alone made 21 kicks.

A full-strength lineup scored a massive win against the All Blacks in Wellington with almost no ball and came very close to doing it again three weeks later in Pretoria.

On Saturday, the Boks will arrive at Twickenham without De Klerk and Le Roux who have not been released by their English clubs because the match falls outside the official Test window. Bulls No 9 Ivan van Zyl will feed the scrum and Damian Willemse will be at fullback. The two have a total of six Test caps.

Maybe that inexperience is the reason Rassie picked them – to see what they do under pressure. He needs to see who his next scrumhalf and fullback is behind Faf and Willie, clearly his first-choice players for the World Cup. Van Zyl, Embrose Papier and Louis Schreuder are on this tour and they will fight it out for the other two scrumhalf places in the 2019 squad.

Rassie knows Van Zyl has talent, he was endorsed by Fourie du Preez, but the coach also knows Van Zyl hasn’t been tested in international rugby, and this week is one of those tests.

The problem is that England will be able to distribute the kicking duties between Ben Youngs (77 caps) and Owen Farrell (61), but the Boks will have a youngster starting at nine at Twickenham, and if his first box-kick goes too far or is off target, then that can get in his head.

Maybe the thinking with Willemse at fullback is similar, to expose him to Test rugby where he has more time to make his reads and kick. He’s great on the counter-attack, and has good feet and speed. Look at what he did with his first touch against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld, stepping two defenders. But he still has to prove his value in terms of finding the right balance between knowing when to run and when to kick.

It’s a good move by Rassie if that’s the reason Willemse is at fullback because, in big games, the No 10 has to make smart moves, like a chess match, and WP’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Bulls showed that he’s not there yet.

In a way, Saturday’s Test match is like the Currie Cup final where the Sharks 9-10-15 combination of Schreuder, Rob du Preez and Curwin Bosch was tactically much better than Herschel Jantjies, Josh Stander and Dillyn Leyds.

The reason I would have preferred Gio Aplon at fullback this week is because he would give the Boks more experience, and a left-footer. Having three right-footed kickers makes it much easier for England to defend our kicking game. With Aplon at fullback the Boks would have been able to split the defence in terms of covering SA’s kicking options, like they do when Faf plays.

A team cannot cover all the space at the back and when you have left- and right-footed kickers it opens up better angles and sets up better exits.

Dominating the kicking game on this tour will be major for the Boks because the wet fields of Europe help the defenders, making it more dangerous to run out of your 22 and more important to get field position.

A former Springbok and Western Province flyhalf, Cilliers has worked with the likes of Morne Steyn, Derick Hougaard, Demetri Catrakilis and Lionel Cronje during his career as a kicking coach at the Bulls, Stormers and most recently as a consultant to clubs in France and Japan. Follow: @Vlokskop10

- Vlok Cilliers

Let's chat

  • Wesley

    Good to see an article like this from a specialist. Its going to be wet and tactical kicks are what wins you the match. Hope Pollard has his correct boots on for the weekend. Im with Vlok on this to prefer Gio for fullback, but if Willemse is to get ball from deep, he should read it when to run and when to kick, where his running game and stepping defenders could open it up for Nkosi or Dyantyi, keeping it tight in support running and not stray into wider channels. A couple of tactical grubbers to keep Daly guessing and pressed into some corners with a slippery ball could also cause some havoc.

  • John Comyn

    I’m not too concerned about van Zyl. He has a good head on him and starting will be good for him. He also has a huge pack in front of him so I doubt he will be getting the ball from a pack going backwards at a rate of knots. He was pivotal for The Bulls in the semi against WP. I am very concerned about Willemse. He seems to have lost his confidence in the last few games he’s played and a full house at Twikenham won’t help. He is a guy that makes his tackles so at least he has that going for him.

  • Rant

    Good article. I disagree about Aplon. He’s not an internationally experienced player. Sure he has played for a long time, and I used to be a big fan, but he is past his prime now. It seems like maybe Rassie is slowly paving a way for himself to be included in the World Cup as player-coach.

    With regards to Willemse and Van Zyl, I think this is about as good a time as any to test them. They have spent all year in the shadows of Le Roux and De Klerk, so now those two are not available it makes sense to have them there. Sure Willemse will make plenty of mistakes, but why not push him into the deep end? I get sick and tired of people in SA moaning about age and experience, the only way to get experience is to play. If they do well, they will be hero’s, if they fail then Rassie will be labelled an incompetent coach by all the armchair coaches who can only dream of even coaching their u/13C team, let alone international rugby.

    However, I think it will be a tight game, its bloody cold in England, and it has been a wet week so skills will be important. And that is going to be the true test of this Bok team. Do they possess the skills to beat England at Twickenham?

    • Barry

      Couldn’t agree less. Neither have been given enough game time off the bench, nor have they shown potential at that level to justify a start!

      It is, once again, a sink or swim scenario, with our National Honour at stake! It’s high risk and dare I say a little irresponsible!

      I wish them well, but there is much concern!

  • Barry

    Firstly hope they both have good games for their own development, but more so because their performances will likely impact on the final result.

    This may seem a bit brash, but we are well settled elsewhere and I can assure you that Eddie-san will have put a target on 9 and more particularly on 15!

    I don’t like criticising selections on the eve of a test, but to be honest I just don’t get the Willense selection. Previous outings at test level have been poor – two tries conceded and he can’t hold down 15 or 10 at Province so really why will it go better at test level Were there not more deserving options – SP Marais, Bosch, Leeds or Aplon?

  • Al

    Think if we can boss scrums and line out we will win, my only concern is as great a player as PSDT is, for whatever reason when he is calling the line outs Marx seems to have a. Ad day with his arrows. Hope that they put this right for tomorrow!

  • Herman Schroder?

    Got to love all the optimism on this site and then reality bites. England 12 – Boks 11. Eddie smiles Rassie weeps. Smarts 12 – Dom Krag 11. When will we ever learn. Cheers.

  • Herman Schroder?

    I know Polly had no part in writing this article and it’s oh so menacing photo but old Vlokkie sure put the knockers on him last Saturday, lol. Come back Jantjies all is forgiven. Cheers.

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