LIFTING HIS GAME: Sbu Nkosi. Photo: CHRIS RICCO/BACKPAGEPIX

The Springboks are playing catch-up to the best teams in the world when it comes to their skills under the high balls.

But they are gaining ground on New Zealand and England in that department, according to assistant coach Mzwandile Stick.

Stick admits that the coaching staff knew that fielding high balls were going to be a challenge this year - especially with a young back three.

He explains: “Currently we as South Africans are fortunate to have the amount of talent in our outside backs.

“If you look at the youngsters like Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and when Makazole Mapimpi also had an opportunity, I think he did quite well.

DEVELOPING: Bok Aphiwe Dyantyi. Photo: BACKPAGEPIX

“[Then there’s] Cheslin Kolbe coming to join us for two weeks and playing against the All Blacks in Wellington. I think he had a solid game also there.

“I think we are in a good space currently with the potential we have in our squad.

“We knew for this season it was going to be a challenge when it comes to aerial skills - especially coming to the northern hemisphere where the conditions can be difficult to play running rugby.

“It’s more of a kicking game [up here], so it was a big work-on for us.

“And the guys are working very hard on it. It’s getting better.

“I enjoy watching them having that confidence to contest in the air. A couple of years back, the All Blacks and England dominated teams in the air.

“And I think we are catching up and getting there - it’s about making sure we dominate that area now.”

The Springboks will look to improve their overall performance when they face France in Paris on Saturday at 10.05 pm after losing to England 12-11 last weekend.

WORKING ON IT: Mzwandile Stick. Photo: MUZI NTOMBELA/BACKPAGEPIX

And Stick believes they just have to execute their plan better to get their first win of the European tour at their second try when they face Les Bleus.

He adds: “The way we’ve played as a team, we are going in the right direction.

“I don’t think we will change much in our plan.”

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