Boks have a new bag of tricks
JUNE TESTS BUILD-UP: The Springbok catchphrase this week has been 'team culture'. However, it is the 'tweaks' to their gameplan that will be most revealing. Jan de Koning reports.
Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan, speaking ahead of the opening Test of the June series against France, in Pretoria on Saturday, said there are some "new and fresh" ideas.
"We have looked at the players the coach [Allister Coetzee] have selected and we have adapted our game accordingly," Van Graan said.
"We have looked at what players do in Super Rugby and we will use their strengths."
With injured loose forward Duane Vermeulen having arrived in camp on Tuesday, the number of French-based players rose to four - although Steven Kitshoff won't return to France next month. He will rejoin the Stormers.
It means the Boks will have some good insight into what to expect from their opponents at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
However, the biggest influences will come from within the coaching staff - especially the 'new and fresh' ideas brought by Franco Smith and Brendan Venter.
"We changed one or two things, while we have done a lot of research and future planning," Van Graan said, adding that they are "very happy" with their scrums, line-outs and mauls.
He spoke about the start of a new journey - the 2017 journey.
"Franco [Smith] were with us at the end of 2016 and Brendan [Venter] has been fantastic in coming in." he said of the a man with extensive coaching experience in England.
"Brendan is a world class coach and brings a wealth of experience," Van Graan said, adding: "He has a lot of knowledge about Northern Hemisphere rugby and 50 percent of our games this year are against Northern Hemisphere opposition.
"He is also a very passionate guy and brings a great work ethic."
Asked about specific tweaks and changes for Saturday, the Bok assistant coach spoke of better decision-making.
"There are a lot of different ways to play the game. We have had to find the right way to play our game.
"There might be one or two things around the maul.
"Franco [Smith] is a brilliant attacking coach, but to execute your attack, your set pieces have to function.
"To play off turnover ball, your defence [Venter's job] has to function."
Van Graan pointed out that the modern trend in the game is to make mostly leg tackles.
"With leg tackles comes more [opportunity for] stealers [at the breakdown]. With more stealers [turnover possession] comes more broken field play.
"We have done our homework and it won't be perfect in the first Test, but hopefully by the end of the year we will have a perfect game."
He also felt that mauls have become a "massive" part of the game.
"We have to adapt to the referees [their interpretation of the maul laws].
"We have three Southern Hemisphere referees [against France in June] and we have done our homework on them.
"The French do stop a maul pretty well and maul very well. We know what is coming."
By Jan de Koning, at the Springbok camp in Pretoria