Well to David Pocock at least he is…
Jan de Koning – Rugby365
Schalk Burger is a ‘world-class’ fetcher, and highly rated by the Australians, even though he is regarded as just another ‘brute basher’ in his own country.
The Wallabies’ very own master poacher, David Pocock, does not share the sentiments of pundits who feel that South Africa do not have a proper openside flank in their line-up.
Speaking at the team’s Cape Town training base, ahead of the Tri-Nations Test against the Springboks in Pretoria on Saturday, Pocock said he does not believe the absence of a player like Francois Louw makes the Boks any less effective or dangerous at the breakdown.
“Yes, [Francois] Louw is fantastic on the ball, we saw that during the Super 14 for the Stormers,” said Pocock, when quizzed about the make-up of the Bok loose forwards and the impact it might have on Saturday’s encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
“From our point of view, the three [loose forwards] that the Boks have are all world class and they have proved themselves over a long time,” the 22-year-old Wallaby said.
He pointed out that World Cup winner Juan Smith also gave the Boks an additional line-out option.
But it is the question of how the Boks will cope at the breakdown, having failed to make a real impact against specialist fetchers like Pocock and Richie McCaw in the Tri-Nations this year.
“Around the field they are very good, and particularly out wide,” Pocock said of the experienced Bok trio – Smith, Burger and Pierre Spies. “With their height and their speed they are very hard to defend.
“It depends what you define as a fetcher,” he added. “Last year, with [Heinrich] Brüssow, he was clearly one of the shorter guys, a fetcher on the ball.
“Schalk [Burger] can play a bit of both. Personally, playing against Schalk, I rate him as a fetcher.”
According to Pocock, Smith brings a whole new skill set to the Bok back row.
“You saw at the weekend [against the All Blacks] when he was on the field that they were going forward, especially out wide.”
Pocock added that Burger was “very good” on the ball, adding: “To say they don’t have a fetcher is a bit harsh. Burger is pretty good there, so we’ll definitely have to look out for him.”
However, Pocock, like McCaw said earlier in the tournament, said it was important for players to make adjustments during the game – considering the vastly differing interpretations by match officials at the breakdown.
“There have been some [law] changes around the breakdown and that does make it harder, especially for spectators who may not be aware of them [the changes],” Pocock said.
“From a player’s point of view, all you want from the referee is consistency.
“If they referee a certain way, as long as they keep refereeing that way, the players are good enough to adapt.
“There will always be times when you will feel you are hard done by,” the Wallaby star said, adding: “Watching the [All Blacks versus Boks] game at the weekend, I felt there were times when guys got away with a fair bit.
“That [to police the breakdown] is up to the referees and we’ll just do our job the best we can.
“I guess it is a case of playing as close to the line as you can and trying to read the referee as best you can.”
Pocock admitted there would always be criticism of refereeing performances when so much was at stake, which makes it imperative for teams to study match officials as much as they analyse the opposition.
“All the technology and all the footage is there to do it, so I’m sure teams are starting to do a lot more work on the ref and how he referees the game,” Pocock said.
“They are fairly consistent, so you can see what they are looking for.”
He said the Wallabies would have to “work hard” on their breakdown skills this week, because the Boks have made huge strides in this aspect of their game since South Africa’s 13-30 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane last month.
“The breakdown was very well-contested by both teams [last week], so that is something we’ll have to work on.
“If we’re short [in numbers at the breakdown] we’ll be punished for it.
“Overall we’re in for a real battle,” he pointed out. “You can see that is something they have really worked on in the last three games of the Tri-Nations I and I think they were very unlucky against the All Blacks to come away with a loss.
“We’re expecting a lot tougher battle than the last time we played them.”
Pocock, nicknamed Bam Bam after Ernie Rubble’s son in the comic strip ‘The Flinstones’, cemented his place in the Wallabies Test team last year – after making his debut in 2008.
After gaining just 13 minutes of play during the year-end Tests against New Zealand and Italy in 2008, Pocock last year featured in 13 of the 14 Tests played by Australia – starting in five of the last seven. His performance on the Grand Slam tour included a Man of the Match effort in the drawn Test against Ireland at Croke Park, as well as a maiden Test try during the 33-12 thrashing of Wales in Cardiff.
The Zimbabwean-born openside flank has been just as prominent in Australia’s Tests this year and hopes to have a big impact at Loftus on Saturday.