Bloemfontein – Grow and learn. That’s the mantra in the Springbok camp this week.
Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot was adamant that the pack will need to improve ahead of Saturday’s second Test against England in Bloemfontein, but that they would not stop attempting to grow the side ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
It is an interesting philosophy to follow. Every coaching outfit needs to run on results. Too many bad ones and they get the chop, enough good ones and you don’t feel you have to grow. Clearly with so much riding on Springbok success, Rassie Erasmus’ idea to create a squad of equals ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan has focus, and in that, the Bok coach has repeatedly said that the team may lose a few along the way.
But still, Erasmus is set to take calculated risks this week rather than play the exact same team that did a Lazarus impression and rose from the dead to beat England in Johannesburg last Saturday. Erasmus has set his sights on a side that can adapt, can alternate and which will be at an equal strength no matter who plays.
Forwards coach Proudfoot echoed those sentiments, saying the coaching staff have all been told exactly how the selection process will operate and the key is to be dynamic while ever changing.
“If you understand Rassie’s philosophy and his leadership to us coaches and the team. He wants us to grow and get better each week. There will always be change,” Proudfoot told SuperSport.com.
“And every week we will change and we will grow. That has been our focus, not so much on England but where can we improve and where can we change. Rassie wants us to be a dynamic side, he wants us to understand that there will be changes in the team and that is the way we operate.”
Proudfoot examined the challenge posed by Eddie Jones’ side and the belief that new-born England flank, Brad Shields, is expected to have a more prominent role this weekend. He also is looking for an improvement in the rolling maul, after England managed to stop it well in the Ellis Park test.
“Shields did come on and I thought he was effective in the game. I thought they were good and put us under a lot of pressure,” Proudfoot added.
“They will be better this week and we put in a helluva session this week to be better and that is the focus for us. Whatever they throw at us, they are a fantastic side and whatever they throw at us, we have to be better. That is the bottom line.
“Every international nation contests a set phase a little differently. They have their own processes and I think we got better through the game, understanding where and how they pressurise you. The focus of that up north is a lot more than down south. It is really to get the guys to understand where that pressure point is, what we need to do to repel that and be dominant.
“I thought Willie’s (Le Roux) try was a classic example of a maul working. We will have a few changes and we will build this team’s capacity to the World Cup. We need 20 forwards that understand those pressures of playing against a New Zealand, playing against an England. We will have a few changes this week and we have taken on board where we weren’t great and we will be better this week.”
While Proudfoot believes neither side dominated the collisions or the breakdown last Saturday, he expected England’s pack to be better with the introduction of Joe Launchbury at lock but believes RG Snyman’s impressive Test debut shows he will be up to the challenge.
“It was tough, it was brutal. I don’t think one side really dominated. I think if you asked both sets of coaches they would both be a bit disappointed in those areas. We will be better this week,” he said.
“Joe Launchbury. Sure, he is an experienced lock forward. He will definitely make a difference. He will be more experienced this week. But RG will be more experienced this week. He has grown, I thought he had a fantastic Test match, he is an influential player.
“He brought his influence that he had at the Bulls into this pack and for a first cap I thought it was really great to see what he did. He is setting goals for him to work at in his second game, he is an intelligent rugby player and that is what my focus is. I want to decide where I put my attention. England have some good forwards, but I need to make sure my focus is on Saturday to make sure this pack is better.
“I think – look at the size of him (RG). He is an influential player and I want him to be a weapon for the Springboks. I want him in that frame of mind, that he is a weapon, that he is tough, that he must win us ball and create a platform for the team to play off.
“I think he did that really, really well. And things he will learn – the time and space is less at international level. And I think for the time he played, the 80 minutes, he will be a much better player on Saturday. That will be our approach every week, our players will be better and better every week and we want to build this team over the next 16 months.”
Build and change. But be up to the challenge on Saturday at the same time, the mantra and the philosophy meet in the middle. And the Boks hope that will be the perfect growing point up to the World Cup.