Five areas where SA Super Rugby teams need to improve

While SA Rugby execs are still sorting out their issues surrounding Allister Coetzee and the Springbok coaching job, preparations for the new Super Rugby season are continuing apace at ground level.

The Lions have been South Africa's best-performing side over the past two seasons, with the Johannesburg team reaching consecutive finals. Other than that, though, there hasn't been much to write home about the other teams.

Ahead of kickoff on 17 February, KweséESPN looks at five aspects South African Super Rugby teams need to master over the next few months if they want to break New Zealand's stranglehold on the competition.

Tempo, tempo, tempo

Playing the game at speed while making proper decisions, and executing them in the heat of battle, are some of the main reasons why South African Super Rugby teams struggle against their New Zealand counterparts.

The Lions have been the best South African side recently because they play at a breakneck tempo. Their attack is flat and have a go right on the advantage line. Momentum is key in modern rugby, with or without the ball, and sustaining it is even more important. Tempo means no respite for the opposition, keeping them on the back foot.

Line speed on defence is important

The contact point is probably the most important aspect of the game these days. It's an area where both defender and attacker need to dominate to get that extra metre. Coaches in South Africa love to say that defending is all about attitude, and you have to get that right before working on the structure.

But defending intelligently is as important as making a tackle on a guy twice your size. South African teams haven't really embraced quick line speed, because they are scared of making mistakes on defence. But if you want to put pressure on the opposition backline in the modern game, you have to play in their faces.

Fetchers are our friend... not the enemy

Fetchers have always been overlooked by South African Super Rugby teams, because it's more important to have another lineout option and a big ball-carrier. But there are a lot more breakdowns in the game than lineouts, and having a specialist player fighting for the ball on the ground and helping his own team get quick ball on attack is a must.

The Lions were excellent last year with two poachers at the side of the scrum, as Jaco Kriel and Kwagga Smith put the opposition under pressure at almost every breakdown. The Kings also played some great rugby when Chris Cloete was dominating the breakdowns.

Playing the situation is the name of the game...

The Lions have showed the way forward for South African sides in the way they approach the game. They tick the tempo, line speed and fetcher boxes, and they bring it all together with a fearless brand of rugby. They back themselves to make the right decisions and execute accordingly.

They will run the ball from their own 22 if there is an overlap, or attack the space behind the opposition line with a well-weighted kick. South African players need to empowered to make decisions on the field, and not be dictated to by coaches who tell them what to do when they are on either side of the halfway line.

...but that doesn't mean the fundamentals must be neglected

New Zealand are the leaders in rugby because they do the simple things better than any other nation on the planet. Their basics are the backbone of their play, and that's what allows their wonderfully gifted players to create magic on the field and gives them the platform to obliterate teams with their natural flair and skills.

South African teams tend to make the mistake of neglecting their set-piece play and defensive duties in the pursuit of a more expansive game. If you can do the basics well, you will automatically have a better attack.