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All Blacks credit Springboks' clever 'double bluff' ahead of tactical change

By Tom Vinicombe
Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi charges at All Blacks halfback Brad Weber. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

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While the Springboks suggested during the week that they would double-down on their kick-heavy game against the All Blacks this weekend, the signs from the get-go were that the Boks were looking to give the ball plenty more width on attack and make the most of their talented outside backs.

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It took barely five minutes for the Springboks to score their first try of the game in their Rugby Championship rematch, with inside centre Damian de Allende touching down following an outrageous around-the-back pass from midfield partner Lukhanyo Am.

That try was a product of an All Blacks error, with Codie Taylor shelling a pass inside the NZ 22 after captain Ardie Savea had nabbed the ball from South Africa at the breakdown, but even in the build-up to that turnover, the Springboks looked to be more interested in sending the balls into the wider channels than they had a week earlier.

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Ian Foster and Ardie Savea react to the All Blacks’ defeat to the Springboks.
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Ian Foster and Ardie Savea react to the All Blacks’ defeat to the Springboks.

In Brisbane last weekend, the Springboks put boot to ball 38 times and made just 66 passes. On the Gold Coast last night, South Africa kicked just 27 times and made 97 passes altogether – an increase of almost 50 per cent.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster had indicated during the week that although the Springboks have shown in the past they are willing to change up their tactics, the All Blacks weren’t expecting a shift from the intense kicking display in the first match.

“I think they’ll be looking at their game and thinking they were probably one goal kick away from having a win,” he said, “and they probably trust some of the tactics they went about to do that so I don’t think [we’ll see] massive variations.

“[But] we’ve got to come prepared for that because we’ve seen them do that in the past. We’ve seen them do that in the second test against the Wallabies.”

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With their more expansive play, the Springboks were able to score almost twice as many points last night to take out the match 31-29.

Following the match, halfback Brad Weber acknowledged the clever work the Springboks put in during the week to prime the All Blacks for another kick-heavy display.

“The South Africans kind of switched it up a little bit on us, held it in hand a little bit more,” he said.

“I don’t think [they caught us unawares]. We knew the aerial attack was coming but a [they performed a] bit of the old double bluff, talk it up to the media and then come out with something slightly different was quite smart from them. We were prepared that maybe they would try and attack a little bit more while also sticking to that aerial attack as well. They just probably got the balance right tonight.”

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All Blacks captain Ardie Savea also praised the Springboks for their balanced play but again indicated that it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“They showed different pictures and I thought they did that extremely well, put us under a lot of pressure,” he said. “We kind of expected that it would come, along with their high-ball game and their kicking game. That’s a credit to them and how they managed the game and put us under pressure in that third quarter of the game. That’s something for us to look at and grow in.”

The win has put the Springboks back into top spot on the World Rugby rankings, with the All Blacks falling to second. Both sides will now prepare for their respective tours to the Northern Hemisphere, with NZ kicking things off in three weeks’ time in America against the USA Eagles.

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All Blacks credit Springboks' clever 'double bluff' ahead of tactical change

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