Boks closing gap to All Blacks ?

They are by no means there yet, not by a long shot, but Springbok assistant coach John McFarland believes the Springboks are closing the gap on New Zealand and will continue to work hard on this overseas tour to rectify deficiencies exposed by the All Blacks in the Boks’ only two defeats so far in 2013.

“We have had a good year but the goal is to be number one and that means you are always chasing New Zealand,” McFarland said “Everybody would say we have closed the gap a bit, but that is the ultimate target – beating the All Blacks.”

McFarland, the Northern Irishman who was recruited by Heyneke Meyer from the Bulls, says the Boks have to emulate the Kiwis’ ruthless appetite for setting standards and for winning matches, and that means no slip-ups in matches the Boks should win with their eyes closed – such as this week’s mach against a Scottish team that has twice upset the Boks at Murrayfield over the last decade or so.

“We are continuously trying to improve our defence, our breakdown work and to broaden our attack, but it bears no relevance if we do not pitch up mentally and physically and play well at the weekend,” he said. “A Test match is a Test match, and it is one game at a time, and it is about beating Scotland this week. And if we improve in areas we have targeted, in the process of winning the game, that is a bonus.”

McFarland specialises in defence and he was a happy man after the Wales win.

“Our defence improved massively from the previous Test, against the All Blacks,” he said. “Wales had three line-breaks early in the game when our new guys were settling in but for 70 minutes we held firm. We stayed in our systems and were very physical.

“If you look back to the Ellis Park Test (where the All Blacks scored five tries), it was a different set of circumstances,” McFarland said. “We needed to score four tries in that game. Against Wales, we just had to win the game. This tour is just about winning games. It is not like in the Rugby Championship where you have to keep an eye on bonus points. This is very different.”

Against Wales, flanker Willem Alberts topped the tackle count with 19.

“That is a huge amount,” the defence coach said. “And most of those he physically dominated the attacker and drove him back. Willem sets the tone for the whole defensive line. Willem, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Jean de Villiers were all up there on the tackle count, and that is to be expected in this part of the world where so much attacking is done in the channells covered by the back row and the inside centre.

“The big surprise was the 15 tackles made by Frans Malherbe on his debut. That is a huge number for a prop.”

Two of the early breaks made by Wales were by centre Jonathan Davies, through the Bok midfield, and McFarland said the lapses could be put down to rustiness.

“If you look at the game flow in terms of defence, it took guys time to settle (such as Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen in their first games back from Japan),” he said. “Even for the whole team there was a degree of rust. We had not been together for a month whereas New Zealand played two more Tests after playing us in the Rugby Championship, so they have been continuing. Our guys have been away and it took time to get back into the system. Guys like Jaque Fourie and JP wiIl not take long to get up to scratch. I have been impressed with Jaque’s organisational skills.”

The Boks arrived in Edinburgh late on Sunday night after their pit-stop in Manchester to watch the big match at Old Trafford and yesterday they had the day off. They will resume training today for Sunday’s game at Murrayfield and will name their team on Thursday.

by Mike Greenaway in Edinburgh

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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