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Winning trumps tries, says Springboks backs coach

 South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, avoids a tackle from JP Pietersen, right during their training session in Wellington, New Zealand, Wedn...
 South African rugby players from left, Heinrich Brussow, Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Chiliboy Ralepelle train in Wellington, New Zealand, Wed...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South African rugby player Morne Steyn, left, avoids a tackle from JP Pietersen, right during their training session in Wellington, New Zealand, Wedn...

New Zealand WCup Rugby World Cup South Africa

South African rugby players from left, Heinrich Brussow, Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Chiliboy Ralepelle train in Wellington, New Zealand, Wed...

Springboks backline coach Dick Muir says the World Cup may not be the carnival of running rugby organizers are hoping for because teams will be more focussed on winning than scoring tries.
Rugby bosses have expressed the hope that rule changes, among other factors, will produce better matches in New Zealand than in France four years ago when a tournament dominated by defense was won by South Africa in a tryless final.
Organizing committee chief executive Martin Snedden has even said the future of rugby's showpiece may depend on the ability of this tournament to produce sporting spectacle.
Muir said South Africa would like to play open rugby but the pressure of vying for the sport's greatest prize meant style was a secondary consideration.
"I think if you have at the last six World Cup finals, only nine tries have been scored," he said. "It's down to pressure and down to opportunities and the higher the level that you get the less opportunities that are available to you.
"So, you'd love to be scoring more tries and playing with more flamboyance but it's about winning at the end of the day. No-one remembers the tries."
The defending champion South Africans open against Wales on Sunday.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has already challenged South Africa to keep the ball in hand, saying the Springboks "don't play any rugby," suggesting they aren't a team bent on tryscoring.
"They're very good at what they do in terms of the set piece, they put the ball up in the air, use the power runners effectively and they're a strong defensive side," Gatland said, explaining the Sprinboks non-frills approach.
Muir said Sunday's match would determine whether Gatland's assessment was true but defended South Africa's winning-comes-first policy.
"You're always wanting to score more tries but it's more about winning games than just scoring tries. It's a team effort," he said.
Winger Bryan Habana needs to cross only once more to overtake Joost van der Westhuizen's South African record of 38 test tries but has been frustrated by recent injuries and a try-scoring drought. Muir backed the 70-test veteran to break that drought at the World Cup.
"I don't think it affects Bryan," Muir said. "He's played a lot of rugby and he's a mature player. He sets his standards and he just wants to get out on the field.
"He's been a bit frustrated this week by not being able to train full out. He's had up and down years. You've seen this outstanding player and that's what he wants to get back to.
"He's really driven and for him it's not just about scoring tries but it's about the collective team."
Muir said South Africa would continue to focus on its own game and would adapt its style with each match to the strengths of its opponents.
"You want to have a little bit of flexibility in what you're able to do but I think a lot of teams get too caught up in worrying about the opposition," he said.
"You've got a job to do, they're going to present you with certain opportunities and you've got to be able to take those opportunities. That's where flexibility and decision-making comes in."
With a highly experienced squad, the Springboks have plenty of players who can lead.
"I think if you look at this squad overall, we've gone for a mature, well-experienced squad and its for that reason, where guys who are tried and tested and have been in pressure situations before," Muir said. "Decision-making is key."


Updated : 2021-04-18 11:44 GMT+08:00