– Cape Town A year before the World Cup, for a defence specialist like Jacques Nienaber to feel that the Springboks are not up to par in that regard is concerning.
South Africa have conceded nine touchdowns in four Rugby Championship matches this season, which is the most pertinent defensive statistic to examine.
Looking back at the 2021 competition, where they conceded 10 tries in six matches, puts this into perspective before of two games against Argentina, tomorrow in Buenos Aires (9:10pm kickoff) and next Saturday in Durban.
The Pumas will test the Bok defense in front of a boisterous, 42 000-capacity crowd at Estadio Libertadores de America this weekend, with their abrasive ball-carrying style and ability to bring their backs into play representing a serious test for the visitors, especially with midfield lynchpin Lukhanyo Am out injured.
This week, Nienaber cited a number of reasons for the uncertainty surrounding the defense.
“I do not know the latest statistics. If you ask me what our completion rate for tackles is, I cannot tell you. If you score four maul tries and kick them all in, the score will be 28-0 and you won’t miss a tackle, according to me,” Nienaber remarked.
“Are we in the proper position to win the World Cup? There are multiple reasons why this is unlikely to occur. When considering only team selection, we do not place a significant emphasis on continuity. Although we want to win every Test match, I do not believe we are currently focused on making consistent squad selections.
“Perhaps we are thinking a bit more broadly by giving Elrigh Louw an opportunity in a major game. This will be comparable to a semi-final; it will be one of his biggest games away from home.
“Last game, we gave Canan Moodie a chance to play in Australia, which it took us nine years to win. And the same goes for Jaden (Hendrikse), who is just getting started there… Consequently, I believe that consistent selection leads to consistent performance. And I am not defending the defendant.
“Are we in the position we desire? No, we are not in the desired location. Exist justifications for this? Maybe. Exist particular statistics that we consider? Certainly, but it is not the typical tackle completion thing… There are additional KPIs that I consider.
Are we checking them off? “We’re not where we need to be if we want to win the World Cup.”
This year, though, the world champions have also attempted to considerably improve their offensive game. Damian Willemse’s entry into the flyhalf position has been a breath of new air, and he was the driving force behind South Africa’s spectacular 24-8 victory over Australia in Sydney.
Tomorrow, they will want to add to their tally, as they have scored 10 tries in four matches, compared to 12 in six matches last season.
The Boks have also squandered a lot of try-scoring opportunities – Am and Makazole Mapimpi were tied for the Rugby Championship lead with six clean breaks each until to yesterday’s match between Australia and New Zealand – and would aim to finish better against the Pumas.
Consequently, when a sports team prioritizes one aspect above another, the others tend to be neglected. The South Africans, though, are aware that they cannot afford any missed tackles or lapses in discipline in Buenos Aires, as Argentina will be ready to pounce.