British and Irish Lions: South Africa defend playing style

9 months ago 3344
Faf de KlerkSouth Africa kicked the ball from hand 35 times during the second Test

South Africa have responded to criticism of their conservative tactics by insisting they do not get the credit their success deserves.

But the second Test was an ugly spectacle dominated by brutal forward exchanges and kicking.

"The same narrative was there when the Boks won the 2019 World Cup," South Africa forwards coach Deon Davids said.

"It's surprising that the effectiveness of this in terms of getting good results is not seen. There's always a plan behind everything.

"When we execute stuff it's not about being boring, it's about understanding what we want to achieve.

"By doing that we've created enough opportunities to be able to play with the ball in hand and score tries."

South Africa scored the only two tries of Saturday's second Test in Cape Town, but those were rare highlights in an otherwise turgid affair.

Each half lasted more than an hour due to incessant stoppages, the sluggish pace a result of the officials reviewing a host of decisions and the world champions' ability to dictate the speed of the game.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster is among those unimpressed, saying that the match "put me to sleep" and that the rivals are "almost afraid to play", while even former Springboks boss Peter De Villiers described the national side as "very, very, boring".

But Davids denies their suffocating gameplan is a bad advert for the game.

"No, not at all. It's a spectacle. I think it's fantastic. Rugby has always been about a physical battle on-field, but also a battle where opponents try to outsmart each other, whether that's on or off-field," Davids said.

"The competitiveness and talent shown by both teams on-field, it's good for world rugby. And if we can continue being competitive at this level and aspire to be better, then rugby in South Africa will just get better."

Unsurprisingly given their emphatic victory, Davids said South Africa were "quite happy" with how the second Test was refereed.

That verdict marks a significant departure from the build-up, when Boks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus released an extraordinary hour-long video critiquing the officials' performance from the Lions' win in the first Test that could be punished by World Rugby.

The Springboks were spared any disciplinary fallout from Saturday's grudge match, despite Cheslin Kolbe's aerial challenge on Conor Murray appearing to be a red-card offence but punished with a yellow card.

Only Lions prop Kyle Sinckler has been cited for an alleged biting incident.

"We're quite satisfied with the process that was followed and that was put into action between the coaching staff and World Rugby," Davids said.

"Whatever decision they take, we will trust that process and will abide by that going forward. Whatever happens in the game, there is a thorough process."

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