Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"All Black Match Is World Cup Final"

Assistant coach says the Springboks treating All Black match as World Cup Final

Backline coach Allister Coetzee gave a media conference recently, and stated very clearly just how seriously the Springbok camp were approaching their next Tri-Nations game against the All Blacks.

Interestingly, when the All Blacks won the Tri-Nations in 1999 and 2003, they were unable to win the World Cup. It’s possibly a faulty psychology that good form in the Tri-Nations will necessarily have any bearing on who will be world champions in September this year. The reason being that the war of attrition strips the teams that work too hard in the lead up to the World Cup, and South Africa are already feeling this through the loss of crucial players like captain John Smit and Brian Habana.

Cotzee said that the Boks aim to ‘crack’ their opponents using tactics to apply maximum pressure. He said that this was done successfully against the Australian star Stephen Larkham. “If you look at Frans Steyn's first drop goal,” Coetzee said, “that came from Larkham missing touch because of the pressure placed on him by Ruan Pienaar."

The Boks will have their work cut out for them in talented Kiwi flyhalf Dan Carter. Their intention is once again to apply pressure in the first phase scrums and lineouts. But the All Blacks present a skilled athletic outfit in a class of their own, and the Boks will have to raise their game to an almost error free level.

Coetzee made an interesting point that the 3 matches prior to the Tri-Nations, their battle against Australia last weekend and the upcoming ‘Championship’ present “a dress rehearsal for us in terms of what is required to win the World Cup. You have to win a sequence of games and then win a final against the world's best. That is what the World Cup is all about so, yes, this game has all the relevance of a final for us."

An area that has been highlighted in the previous game is the Boks tendency to kick away possession. Butch James will have to have an extra ace or too up his sleeve, as the All Blacks will punish the Boks more decisively than the Wallabies did for clumsy tactics.

And while the Boks are marking Dan Carter, it’s likely that the All Blacks will be on young Frans Steyn’s trail. Even if he is marked, the Boks have other kickers on standby, suck as Percy Montgomery and Derek Hougaard. Both have made stabs at drop goals, but with less success than Steyn thus far.

Whatever happens, Saturday’s match is likely to sizzle with exciting play from both sides.

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