Fit Boks prefer brains over brawn
In stark contrast to public perception Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer does not have a propensity for a one-dimensional kicking game.
Heyneke Meyer may be perceived to be a dour coach with a propensity for a one-dimensional kicking game. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Speaking to the media in Johannesburg on Monday, where they started preparations for the forthcoming Rugby Championship, Meyer said his team as actively embracing a more expansive game.
In fact last year they scored the highest number of tries in the Test arena - a fact often overlooked by the naysayers.
"There's been a lot of criticism against our Super Rugby teams for not scoring enough tries," Meyer told a media scrum, adding that they have improved significantly in that regard.
"I said we wanted to score tries in June and I feel we got that right,"he said of the 17 tries they scored in the three official tests against Wales and Scotland. There were another six tries in a non-cap international match against a World XV.
Meyer admitted the days of simply "out-muscling" the opposition are long gone.
"We have to outthink them," the coach said, adding: We have to be physical enough, but we have to out-think the opposition.
"We have made huge steps [in this regard] in the last year to year-and-half."
Looking towards the opening Rugby Championship match, against Argentina in Pretoria on August 16, Meyer highlighted the scrums and conditioning as areas of concern.
"One area I believe we have to improve on in the Rugby Championship is the scrums," he said of a facet of the game in which the Boks were rated as No.1 in the world in 2013.
"I wasn't happy at all with the scrums in the June Tests," he said, adding: "Worldwide there has been a big trend in the scrums and I am very worried about this aspect.
"We only had five attacking scrums that we could play from in the Rugby Championship [last year]. There is not a lot of play from scrums and that is one area I believe we need to look at."
While Meyer was full of praise for Bok conditioning coach Basil Carzis, he admitted it will receive plenty of attention in the weeks to come.
"Fitness-wise we are probably ahead [of last year], but we are still not where I want us to be.
"The first few weeks we will work hard on that, we have to take it to a new level. I still believe the one area we need to improve on if we want to be the best in the world is conditioning - that will always be my top priority.
"Once you become fatigued the skill levels drops, your defence goes, your scrums go and the penalties start to mount.
"If you look at the game now, the ball is in play longer than ever. Previously there was more of a kicking contest and an arm-wrestle - now it is a far more expansive game."
Another cause for concern, according to the Bok mentor, is tactical kicking.
"We just looked at Super Rugby, and I can't speak for South African teams, but the New Zealand and Australian teams moved to a No.9 and No.10 that can kick tactically very well.
"It [tactical kicking] was one of our downfalls last year in the Rugby Championship.
"We have to keep on improving and we will spend a lot of time this week working on that."