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Bok backline is a work in progress

It's a question of balance

19 October 2017 - 07:34 By Gary Gold
Fullback Warrick Gelant (in blue), the top try-scorer in the ongoing Currie Cup campaign, is another young player who has been in blistering form.
Fullback Warrick Gelant (in blue), the top try-scorer in the ongoing Currie Cup campaign, is another young player who has been in blistering form.
Image: CHRISTIAAN KOTZE / AFP

There were plenty of positive signs from the Springboks during the Rugby Championship and they will be buoyed by the fact that they ran the All Blacks very close in their last encounter.

The forwards have been rightfully praised for laying a solid foundation, but the backs have come in for some stick.

There was a suggestion in some quarters that the forwards won the game for South Africa at Newlands and the backs lost it for them.

However, I feel that is over-simplistic, and it's important to remember that rugby is a team effort.

The Springbok backline isn't a point of concern but rather an area of uncertainty at the moment.

By and large, the forward pack is nailed to the mast in terms of selection but the Bok backline is not cut and dried after nine Test matches this term.

There are growing calls for Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lukhanyo Am to operate as a new centre combination for the Springboks on the end-of-year tour to Europe.

Am, whom I signed when I was still at the Sharks, is a prodigious talent and an absolutely sensational player.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the Bok backline lacks the X-factor, but it is fair to say that it is short in terms of balance.

Fullback Warrick Gelant, the top try-scorer in the ongoing Currie Cup campaign, is another young player who has been in blistering form.

The 22-year-old's elevation to the senior national set-up would be wonderful to see.

There may be the odd bolter in the Bok squad but I can't imagine seeing too many new faces when Allister Coetzee announces his year-end touring squad the day after the Currie Cup final on October 28.

Selection will always be a bone of contention, but I believe the Springboks' main issues revolve around building consistency and having an understanding of how they want to play.

David Campese made a recent observation that incumbent centres Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel "have been moulded into nothing more than battering rams". I don't have a problem with the Boks making use of the battering tactic if it's to suck in the defence so as to create space.

The Boks need to be direct in terms of approach and breach the gain-line because that is one of their primary strengths.

However, from that point onwards, Campese is correct in that Coetzee's charges need to utilise their skills and move the ball.

But it's simply not in the Boks' DNA to give the ball air from everywhere on the field and it's also not what the Lions do.

The two-time Super Rugby finalists play an attractive brand of rugby but they perform the basics well and earn the right to go wide.

The Lions first batter and punch holes in opposition defences through abrasive protagonists such as Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Janse van Rensburg and Ruan Combrinck.

And, once they break tackles and get in behind the opponent, you then see Elton Jantjies's skills and the ability of the back three coming to the fore.

The national team are heading down a similar path and I urge supporters to be patient as the men in green and gold discover the perfect blend in terms of game plan.

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