Auckland – Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has played down concerns about French referee Romain Poite ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown with the world champion All Blacks here at Eden Park.
By: Brenden Nel – SuperSport
According to the supersport.com website, Meyer called it a “blessing in disguise” when referring to the way Poite refereed the breakdowns in the Boks’ win over Scotland in Nelspruit earlier this season, saying it ensured they had to alter the way they play and learnt some valuable lessons on the day.
Poite allowed the Scottish forwards to take up the space behind the ruck, and often take out South African defenders illegally without penalising the Scots, and as a result the Boks struggled to impose their dominance until the hour mark in the game before winning 30-17.
Now as they prepare to meet Poite again in a game that has higher stakes than any other time under Meyer’s leadership, the Bok coach believes that the breakdown has improved significantly since then and the Boks are ready to adapt if necessary.
“It was a good learning curve for us,” Meyer explained.
“We’ve worked hard on the breakdown and it was one area that I’ve targeted since the beginning of the year where I’ve felt South Africa has really been left behind. Last Saturday, against good openside flankers, we have made huge improvements in that time.
“So it probably was a blessing in disguise.”
The Bok coach was under no illusion about how big the task is this weekend at Eden Park, where the All Blacks haven’t lost since 1994.
“Saturday we face a different animal so we will have to be at our best. Saturday we face not just the best loose trio but a lot of other guys that are good at the breakdown as well.
“The All Blacks tend to force you into the wide channel and then target you with the counter ruck. They are also good at the counter ruck with box kicks so we have to be very clinical at the breakdown.
“I’m really happy with the work we’ve done at the breakdown so I don’t foresee any problems there with the referee.”
Another way of looking at it is that the Boks can’t control the referee performance, but have to adapt. To focus energy on it would be a waste, so they are confident they will be able to handle anything that comes their way