(Reuters) - Adapting to the greater freedom afforded by northern hemisphere referees at the breakdown will be a big challenge for South Africa against Wales but the experience of their consultant Richie Gray will help them, according to flanker Francois Louw.
Scot Gray was drafted into the Springbok set-up in August to help them be more effective at the breakdown, a major area of focus for coach Heyneke Meyer this year and one he feels will be key for his team at the 2015 World Cup in England.
Louw, South Africa’s chief exponent in poaching and securing the ball on the ground, says the art plays a much greater role in matches in the northern hemisphere where referees are generally happier to allow teams more opportunity to contest.
“Richie has been great for us, he is a great addition to the coaching set-up with his philosophies around the breakdown,” Bath loose forward Louw told a news conference in Cardiff, where Saturday’s test takes place.
”Being a Scot he is obviously a bit more attuned to how the guys play over here. He brings a different perspective to that area.
”The guys have really caught on to him and believe in his views and the things he is saying. He has come up with some great drills and helped the guys develop their skills at the breakdown.
“We are now making the correct decisions, especially on defense, when to go in and when not to, and on attack you obviously want to get in there early to stop the opposition slowing your ball down.”
Irishman Alain Rolland will be in charge of Saturday’s match, the first time he will referee Wales since their 9-8 World Cup semi-final defeat by France in 2011 in which he sent off Welsh captain Sam Warburton.
“I think we have seen in the past, certainly in the last year, that northern hemisphere referees like to allow the breakdown to develop and allow more of a contest there,” Louw said.
”I think it is a big point in northern hemisphere rugby, guys do compete there, they like to counter-ruck and slow the opposition ball down. It is going to be a big challenge for us.
“The breakdown is a massive element, if we have a good platform to attack from it is always going to make you better as a side.”
After Wales this weekend, South Africa will play Scotland in Edinburgh on November 17 and France in Paris on November 23.
Writing by Nick Said; Editing by Sonia Oxley