Sam Whitelock aims to undo Springbok lineouts again
All Black lock Sam Whitelock does not remember watching the Springbok huddle before a crucial lineout late in the 2015 World Cup semifinal‚ but he does remember stealing the ball.
Whitelock nicked possession from Victor Matfield’s grasp at Twickenham, with less than eight minutes to play and with two points in the game. It turned out to be the only lineout steal of a contest that was on a tightrope all the way through.
New Zealand won 20-18. It was also the last time the Boks were competitive against the All Blacks. In the three contests since, they have lost by an aggregate score of 52-9‚ which included a record 57-0 defeat in Albany three weeks ago.
Part of the Boks’ downfall in the last match was due to their set-piece crumbling. But it did not fall apart without reason; it collapsed under severe All Black pressure. Whitelock was the destroyer-in-chief as the Boks lost five lineouts in Albany — and it is a job he aims to repeat at Newlands on Saturday.
He missed last week’s 36-10 win in Argentina as part of a small‚ crucial group of players that were spared the tough journey‚ coming straight to SA last Friday. Whitelock is well rested‚ acclimatised and ready to go.
He has had more time than usual to do analysis, not a happy recipe for the Boks.
"It would be quite nice to get the Springbok lineout calls‚" he said with smile. He might not have been joking.
"The past doesn’t really matter in this case. You can plan for it as much as you want‚ but there are heaps of ways to win the ball at the lineout.
"Every team has their own style‚ so you have to be prepared to adjust every week‚ firstly for the opposition‚ and then according to what’s happening in the game itself.
"We’re looking to improve on our recent performances‚ and we certainly won’t be sticking to anything that’s worked in the past. The Boks should also be better and so it could come down to which team adjusts the best on the day.
"It just shows that it doesn’t matter what any team is doing‚ how they are tracking‚ you’ve got to prepare‚ first of all yourself individually," he said.
"We’ve had a good look at it and with myself not playing last week, I’ve spent a bit more time trying to work out if we can have a better plan‚ is there a different way of doing it for better results?"