Boks prepared for an aerial assault

To hear some of the Springbok players talking about Wales this week was a tad ironic as it sounded very much like the way the opposition teams normally talk up the Springboks.

Among the collated highlights included how good the set-piece of the Welsh are, their big ball carriers and Sam Warburton at the breakdown, an aerial assault that is expected and a direct game plan, all of which can easily be applied to the Springboks.

Either way, while the game plan often is more complex than it is given credit for, there is no doubt that the Boks are facing a side that pride themselves on a direct approach and will try and test the Boks with some of their own medicine.

Willie le Roux didn’t have much to say in the week, but the little he did get in between Bryan Habana’s lengthy answers at the press conference perfectly summed up the way the Boks are preparing for their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal clash.

Le Roux admitted that the defeat in Cardiff was one of his worst memories in a Springbok jersey and that there was a keen desire to rectify it.

But he did let on the Boks are preparing for the Welsh to use the aerial battle more often than they would normally do to gain some sort of ascendancy.

The twin giants of George North and Alex Cuthbert have both been employed in the respective wing positions to chase down the high ball and try and beat the Bok back three to the ball.

And remembering what a lottery an aerial clash is of late, and factoring in the rain that is expected for Twickenham on Saturday, it will be a tough battle off the ground.

The Boks suffered in November because of an aerial clash that saw Cornal Hendricks yellow carded for a clash in the air, thanks to a hysterical reaction by referee John Lacey at the time. And while it did bring focus to a grey area in the law books, it was an uncomfortable battle for the Boks that contributed to losing that game.

This year the back three are a lot different, and the Bok wingers have been dangerous on attack, with Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen both excelling with the ball in hand. But if it does rain the Boks are likely to employ the same tactics, using the boot of Fourie du Preez to try and get pinpoint accuracy with their kicks.

Le Roux summed up the focus areas rather well when he said the Boks were preparing for the Welsh rush defence, which has thus far only conceded two tries in the Group of Death.

But considering the Boks have scored 11 tries and conceded only four in the last four encounters between these two sides, it will come down to which side executes their game plan the best in the conditions and under the pressure.

“The Welsh have a great rush defence,” Le Roux said this week, “They have a great kicking game, and like to kick the bombs on the wings and have three guys chasing hard after it. Tactically we have to be good this weekend and play smart and it will be good for us.”

The Boks know what to expect and will use pieces of Australia’s win against Wales to help them unlock the Welsh defensive system. But the air up there will be busy and they will need to dominate not only up front, but in the air as well to come out on top.


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