Mzwandile Stick. (Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
- Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says faith will be kept in the backline despite malfunctions in Australia.
- Halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard have come in for sharp criticism for their match management in Australia.
- Stick concedes that their discipline also needs to improve as late penalties cost them wins against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said they’ll retain faith in the backline that has rewarded them with success despite the current criticism the unit has been receiving.
The Bok backs, especially halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard, have been panned for not finding a balance in kicking and running in the three games against Australia and New Zealand.
The Boks lost twice against Australia in Gold Coast and Brisbane and last week’s narrow defeat to the All Blacks in Townsville means the Boks are on the verge of losing four consecutive games if they slip up against the All Blacks in Gold Coast on Saturday.
Stick said their backline has delivered when it mattered and they can’t be cast adrift at this moment.
“This is a backline that has been together for a long time and they’re human beings,” Stick said.
“Everyone has their days when things don’t come together as planned, but these are the players who have won us the Rugby Championship, the British & Irish Lions series and the World Cup.
“As a coach, there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement, but the game on Saturday is important and we need to leave on a high note.
“It’s been a tough time being away from home for as long as we have, but we know our supporters need this win, so we’ll do everything in our power to win the game.”
The narrow nature of some of the losses against the Wallabies and the All Blacks was concerning to Stick.
A late Quade Cooper penalty settled matters in Gold Coast and the same happened in Townsville two weeks later when Jordie Barrett punished the Springboks with a similarly late penalty.
The Springboks’ discipline has come into sharp focus in Australia, with a yellow card conceded in each game, along with a slew of penalties.
Stick conceded that this was an area where they needed to improve.
“We’re not happy with the results and when you see the performance in the first Test against Australia, we were leading, but lost the game late,” Stick said.
“It was the same case in the New Zealand game where we also lost the game to a late penalty, so there are areas of improvement, especially with discipline.”
Saturday’s Test kicks off at 12:05 (SA time)
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 George Bower, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Damian McKenzie
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn