Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan has come out in defence of South Africa's much-maligned game plan.
South Africa have had a turbulent 2012 to date in which they have managed just three victories in their first five internationals - four of which were played on home soil.
Although the Springboks remain unbeaten under new coach Heyneke Meyer, a lacklustre 14-all draw with England in Port Elizabeth in June and a historic 16-all stalemate with Argentina in Mendoza last Saturday have resulted in much criticism of the Springboks’ predictable game plan and lack of attacking potency.
For the second successive week, the Springboks were unable to a score a four-try bonus point against the Pumas at the weekend and regressed from their three tries in the Rugby Championship opener in Cape Town to a fortuitous solitary charge down five-pointer in the return fixture.
The entertaining Currie Cup clash between the Blue Bulls and the Sharks that preceded the Mendoza Test showcased that South African players are attackingly gifted if encouraged to keep the ball in hand and was in stark contrast of the dire draw that followed.
Urged during a question and answer session on SARU's official website to adopt a running brand of rugby similar to that of the Blue Bulls in their 42-31 victory, Van Graan, through match statistics, explained that things aren’t always as they seem.
"The Bulls scored three tries and the Sharks scored four. All the Bulls’ tries were from turnovers, mainly thanks to good defence. The Sharks also had more possession and territory than the Bulls (51% to 49%).
“But the kicking stats really interested me - the Sharks kicked the ball 21 times during the game and the Bulls 30 times, which could point to the Bulls actually playing less running rugby than the Sharks,” said Van Graan.
“So the point is that things are not always as it seems. In the end, playing the correct kind of rugby in the right positions on the field is what we [the Springboks] will be aiming for, as well as breaking down defences and scoring as many tries as possible.”
Van Graan also explained why South Africa utilised their driving maul so sparingly against the Pumas, saying, “We will always try to use the maul at the right time of the game on the right position on the field, but sometimes the opponents defend the line-out well and then we need to alter our plans.
“Having said that, we scored a try from a maul [by Marcell Coetzee] against Argentina at Newlands, which was great!”
By Quintin van Jaarsveld