Springbok loosies under the microscope

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    30 Aug 2018     Getty Images

Respected South African rugby writer Gavin Rich said on the Springboks, who will play the All Blacks in Wellington on September 15, needed to find the balance that would turn their loose forwards from disjointed teammates into a pack hunting the ball.

Argentina had been able to slow down the Springboks' ball without intervention by referee Angus Gardner, he said. But at the same time the South Africans had been unable to protect their ball, their lack of hard work up front and unwilling to try and play at pace had also worked against them.

"One of the toughest calls for Erasmus to make is the loose trio. Siya Kolisi has taken over the captaincy and as such deserves his spot in the team. Kolisi brings more than just his play to the side, and his leadership abilities on and off the field have been well-documented.

"But Kolisi also leaves Erasmus with a poser. He isn't a classic out and out fetcher, and he certainly isn't the physical big ball-carrying seven flank that the Boks so often employ. Instead Kolisi is more a hybrid between a six and seven, a player who works continually hard at what he does and leads by example," he said.

The Springboks had not been able to repeat the 'brutal and blunt force' from players like Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit that succeeded in the first Test against Argentina.

Rich said fellow flanker Francois Louw appeared a moment off the pace in the game while No.8 Warren Whiteley was working a little too far from the breakdown. Kolisi had done his best but the trio had been ineffective.

"The balance of the loose trio unwound as quickly as the Argentinean players sensed the opportunity and the Boks were unable to adapt. Without Malcolm Marx' prowess at the breakdown and slowing the Boks down at will, they were able to capitalise and regroup quickly, stopping the Bok attack with greater numbers when needed," Rich said.

Having put his faith in Kolisi, Erasmus was faced with making some changes to best suit the balance of the trio. It could see Duane Vermeulen or Jean-Luc du Preez played at No.8 to cover the power lost by losing a big, stronger blindside flanker, or it could mean playing Kolisi on the open side while using a bigger, and more physical blindside player to complement Whiteley's workrate with some physicality.

"Getting the loose trio balance right should be one of the biggest concerns heading into the Australasian leg of the Rugby Championship.

"Quality ball is vital for any team and a repeat performance of Mendoza would not make for good reading in Wellington," he said.