Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis says South Africa need to improve their lineout play ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup match against Fiji in Wellington.
The title holders scraped past Wales with a 17-16 win in their opening game last week.
“We didn’t use our lineout ball to the best of our abilities,” Du Plessis said.
“It has been a strength of the Springboks since 2004, when most of the guys started playing, so that is definitely an area where we want to improve, in all aspects of lineout play.”
South Africa would have to make that step up without Victor Matfield, the team’s specialist in that facet of play, after he picked up a hamstring injury in their opening game and was expected to be out for 10 days.
Du Plessis, who came on in the second half against Wales, made a strong impression in the tackle area.
He admitted, however, that their lineout intensity had not been at its highest during the time he spent on the field.
“I think the defensive lineout worked great in the first half, but we slacked down in the second half and we need to keep the pressure on them this week,” he said.
Johann Muller, who turns out for Irish club Ulster, would be able to rise to the challenge, Du Plessis believed, as a replacement for the injured Matfield.
“Johann Muller has played almost 40 Tests as well and he’s been a stalwart at the Sharks,” Du Plessis said.
“He’s definitely changed the lineout mind-set of Ulster so he has great abilities.
“I’ve got great respect for Johann. He has also been a Springbok captain and he’s a big leader in the team.”
As for the threats posed by Fiji, the front row forward said the Boks would have to be sound in defence against an impressive outfit which promised to take to the field in top physical condition.
“If you look at the [Pacific] Island players in Fiji and Samoa, they have very good athletes,” Du Plessis said.
“From one to 15, they can outrun most of our guys and defence is one of the things we have been working very hard on.
“I think a guy like [Bok defence coach] Jacques Nienaber did a lot of work with us, and we could see the work he had been doing with the Stormers the last two or three years, and how they defended, and I think it is helping us at the moment.”
Du Plessis admitted South Africa had been below par against Wales but insisted they were pleased to pick up a win, regardless of the margin of victory.
“We are here to win games and I think sometimes you don’t want to win them by one point, but we want to win,” he said.
“After the World Cup you are not going to see how far you won by in the first game, you just want to win seven games in a row.” — Sapa
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