Rowntree lauded by SA counterpart

Published: Monday 10th November 2014 by The News Editor

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South Africa are steeling themselves to face an England pack regimented by “one of the best forwards coaches in the world” at Twickenham on Saturday.

Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan hailed England counterpart Graham Rowntree for creating a “world-class scrum”, while calling on South Africa to sharpen up after 29-15 defeat in Ireland.

Van Graan revealed boss Heyneke Meyer has led several Springboks fact-finding missions to England, where the two sets of coaches have traded ideas and forged lasting friendships.

“Graham Rowntree is in my opinion one of the best forwards coaches in the world and a good friend of mine,” said Van Graan, who doubles as South Africa’s attack coordinator.

“The great thing about rugby is the friends you make.

“We coached against each other for the first time in 2012, what a great guy and what a great coaching staff.

“Just look at guys like Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt; Heyneke and I have visited the northern hemisphere quite a few times in the last year, we’ve had a few coffees together.

“And like we did with the All Blacks a few weeks ago I’m sure we’re going to have a drink before and after the game, talk about their challenges, our challenges, where the game is going, what you think.

“At the end of the day we’re much bigger than just ourselves and just this Test match, it’s about the game, and what a fantastic coaching group they have, and they are good friends of ours.”

South Africa dominated territory and possession in Dublin on Saturday but slipped to defeat owing to a host of handling errors and a costly yellow card for replacement hooker Adriaan Strauss.

Ireland’s physicality and technical nous caught the Springboks out, with Van Graan admitting their refusal to bind on an early maul was a “shock”.

Van Graan believes former Leicester and England prop Rowntree has built a pack that is now the envy of the world under boss Lancaster.

“You’ve just got to look at the way their forwards conduct themselves on and off the field, the way they prepare, they are always well-prepared at lineout time in attack and defence,” said Van Graan.

“They have a pretty solid maul.

“They put us under pressure in South Africa two years ago; we played them four times that year.

“It’s a world-class scrum and a world-class plan.

“Whenever we come up against them we know it’s a challenge.”

South Africa may look to parachute Patrick Lambie in at fly-half to face England ahead of fast-rising star Handre Pollard.

Head coach Meyer wants his Rugby World Cup 2015 squad all-but nailed down by the end of the current tour, and is intent on giving opportunities to impress this month.

Van Graan refused to criticise the Springboks’ half-back duo of Pollard and Francois Hougaard in Saturday’s Ireland loss however.

The Springboks do not expect England to change tack to exploit any perceived tactical kicking weakness, especially with Van Graan warning against Danny Care’s running game.

Widely credited with helping devise South Africa’s new expansive play, former Bulls coach Van Graan singled out Harlequins scrum-half Care as one of England’s chief threats.

“It would be unfair from my side to single out individuals, as a team we made some errors in Ireland that we’ve now got to fix,” said Van Graan.

“It starts with the carry and the presentation, and sometimes the half-back gets the criticism when the presentation’s not up to scratch.

“There were some individual errors by players but we’ll take responsibility as a team and we’ve got to fix it.

“Twickenham is a place we love to play and this is a Test against a team we really respect.

“We’re facing world-class players; we’ve a lot of respect for Danny Care.

“I don’t think they’ll pay too much attention to what Ireland did, they will just focus on their game.”

Published: Monday 10th November 2014 by The News Editor

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