'If the Lions want to play touch rugby that would be nice for us'

The Springboks’ contestable kick-heavy tactics have been hugely successful for them.

THE SPRINGBOKS HAVE rejected the suggestion that they were at fault for slowing down last weekend’s second Lions Test, while reiterating that they will not be deviating from the style of play that won them the 2019 World Cup. 

Last weekend’s clash lasted for more than two hours and 10 minutes, with the Lions since suggesting that the South Africans did everything in their power to ensure the game was very stop-start by going down injured and niggling at the tourists after the whistle.

Warren Gatland’s side have repeatedly highlighted the need to lift the tempo in tomorrow’s deciding third Test in Cape Town.

“They can throw the handbags around as much as they like as long as we can get that ball out and play some rugby,” said Lions flanker Courtney Lawes.

However, the Boks have refuted the idea that they were at fault for such a slow game last time out.

“I’m not too sure when you say we were trying slow the game down but once again remember the person in charge of the whistle is the referee,” said Boks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick today.

“So if the TMO and the refs need more time according to what they see on the screen, that’s got nothing to do with us.

“When the ball is in play, all our players give their best and I don’t recall any of our players doing anything to slow the ball down. People must understand that the TMO is part of the game also and if it takes two minutes to make a decision unfortunately that’s not in our control.

“The best we can do as a Springboks team, we control the ball in play, we control the tempo and how we want to play the game. If they want to lift the tempo up, that is their plan. If we want to slow the game down and make it boring, we’ll do that, as other people are saying ‘boring rugby.’

“But from outside we don’t go into a game intentionally trying to slow things down and if the British and Irish Lions want to play touch rugby that would be nice for us and they’re more than welcome to do so.

mathieu-raynal Mathieu Raynal is tomorrow's referee. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’re not going to decide what they must do and also they’re not going to tell us how to play the game.”

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi insisted his team always focus on the actual rugby but said that “if there are niggles, we can’t leave a man behind.”

The South Africans have given short thrift to complaints about their contestable kick-heavy style of play during this Lions series and Stick stressed that they won’t be changing their approach in the deciding Test.

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“With the aerial contest, it is not a secret,” said Stick. “It is going to be massive. If you go back to 2017 when we were playing against the All Blacks, it was massive then.

“It is very, very funny when some coaches all of a sudden say that the Springboks play boring rugby because of the kicking. Whereas if you go back to that 2017 series, there was a game where a team like the All Blacks had 30 kicks from open play and they won the first game.

“Unfortunately, kicking is part of the game, unless there are new rules that we are not allowed to kick. We are looking forward to the aerial contest. [Lions fullback] Liam Williams is one of the best guys, he’s very tough, he’s very physical, he doesn’t go away. It is going to be tough for us but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

And Kolisi highlighted the fact that this weekend feels a little like the 2019 World Cup final, albeit the majority of these Boks won’t get another chance to play the Lions in their careers.

“It is definitely similar, but at the same time it is different because this opportunity for all of us will not come again. That’s the mentality throughout the team. That’s the message this week.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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