Fri, 30 Jul 2021

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says the Bok 23-man squad for the first Test against the British & Irish Lions should be solidified by now.

Mallett, who works for SuperSport as a rugby pundit, was commenting after Saturday's double-header at Cape Town Stadium where the Bulls stunned the SA 'A' side 17-14 and the Lions thrashed the Stormers 49-3.

Mallett said a few of the SA 'A' players did not do their chances of Test selection any good in the defeat to the Bulls.

"I think they (Springbok selectors) have got a very good idea of their 23 going into the first Test. Your opportunity to put your hand up today has now been limited because a couple of guys like (Johan) Goosen who said, 'Hang on a sec, don't forget about me'.

"In a performance like this, when you lose to a provincial side, they (SA 'A') have had time together, I think it's going to solidify the 23 who were already in the back of the minds of the coaches. Those guys are going to go in with the hope of the nation on their shoulders," Mallett said.

Mallett added that the Bulls were more clinical in the end.

"The Bulls missed their opportunities in the first half and everything stuck in the second half. Suddenly their behind-the-back plays were working in the second half.

"They got the ball out well and Goosen took on the defensive line well twice really effectively. That little out-the-back pass was brilliant, and his other break was really good - some poor defence there from outside-in.

"The key difference was the SA 'A' team didn't take their opportunities. We saw (Rosko) Specman make two beautiful breaks; the first one he shouldn't have passed because there was a gap on his inside and Goosen did very well to cover (Cobus) Reinach; and the second time he was just too fast for the players on his outside.

"There were two opportunities there that they didn't take. In a game like this it is literally about taking your opportunities when they present themselves."

Mallett also noted the SA 'A' side's fragility at set piece.

"A big disappointment for the SA 'A' team is their mauling. They had quite a few opportunities, particularly at the end of the game after a really good kick by Elton Jantjies. But they were unable to finish them off with a decent driving maul.

"Eight lineout losses just kills it. You've got to go in with a 95% win ratio in your lineouts. And hopefully the Springboks will be able to do that. Secondly, scrum dominance is something that we expect and we didn't get it today."

Mallett did, however, single out SA 'A' fullback Aphelele Fassi as a player who put his hand up.

"I thought Fassi was very good for 50, 60 minutes but at the end of the game he didn't get much ball. If he got the ball that the Bulls managed to produce for their backline, I think he would have been very dangerous.

"He was my man-of-the-match up until Goosen did these extraordinary things and really turned the game around."

Source: News24

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