WELLINGTON, New Zealand, September 12 – Peter de Villiers said Monday his South Africa team would carry on their kicking game as long as poor weather conditions continue and referees struggle to officate the breakdown consistently.
The Springboks laboured to a 17-16 win over Wales in their opening World Cup game on Sunday in a Wellington stadium where squalls of driving rain and swirling rain quickly made defence king.
“Defence has become an art at this tournament,” De Villiers said. “The longer this tournament progresses, the more people are going to struggle to cross the gainline.
“And looking after the ball will become very, very important so you can buy a penalty or two and that’s why you must have an above-average kicker.
“Sometimes people think that kicking is forfeiting possession,” he said. “But we have a strong line-out, we compete for the ball and managed to steal a couple of their throw-ins.”
De Villiers highlighted the refereeing of the breakdown as key to his players adapting to the particular interpretation of the laws and deciding on what tactics to employ.
“You might keep the ball if they officiate that area of the game very well, but if you see the referee is not on top of that area of the game, you’d rather kick it,” he said.
The breakdown, he added, “will become an area in this tournament that’s very important for decision making: whether you should kick or hold on to the ball”.
“In every team, there is someone very hard on the loose ball. It is one area where they make it very difficult for the referees to officiate because when you flood it they don’t know who’s offside or not.
“You have to start analysing referees. That’s something you didn’t have to do 10 years ago.
De Villiers also had praise for the defence of his team against a Welsh side that enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory.
“We made 178 tackles, we had a great defensive session last night. The structure worked perfectly, but the committment the guys showed in the system was something that brought out the character of the team.”
However, he added: “We didn’t stick to our directness in the game. Our two tries were rewards of being direct.
“We took it too wide sometimes on occasion without much cleaness at the breakdown, and they targeted that area and flooded it.
“Kicking was also very, very difficult, the wind was swirling and you couldn’t put it where you wanted to.”
But the Bok coach admitted that his team, who only wrapped things up with a 65th minute Francois Hougaard try converted by Morne Steyn, had been prepared for a Wales side that had nothing to lose, with games for each side against pool opponents Fiji, Namibia and Samoa to play.
“We always knew it (the Wales game) was going to be the toughest one. For one reason, there’ll be a four, five-day turnaround for them to play Samoa, who are going to be fresh,” he said.
“We knew they would target us and they threw the kitchen sink at us.
“This pool is actually the pool to win. When you get through this pool, you’ll be more conditioned to go to the next phases.”