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'All of a sudden a big part of their game is gone': Ex-All Black first five on Boks' vulnerability

By Ben Smith
Stephen Donald playing against the Springboks. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Former first five-eighth Stephen Donald says that things look bleak for the All Blacks but that shouldn’t deter them from believing in their game which ‘will always trouble the Springboks’.

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The ex-All Black was there in 2009 as the side lost two tests in a row in South Africa, stepping in for the injured Dan Carter to start at No 10 in a head-to-head match up with a young Morne Steyn.

The Springboks won the first test in Bloemfontein 28-19 before Steyn scored all of South Africa’s points in a 31-19 victory in the second test in Durban. The return of Dan Carter in the third test in Hamilton couldn’t prevent the Springboks completing a 3-0 whitewash.

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Much like 2009, the Springboks are the World Cup holders but Donald said the experience of players that have done it before in South Africa will be valuable.

“Things are down in the dumps at the moment, but you’ve still got guys there who have beaten South Africa in South Africa,” Donald told Stuff.co.nz.

“I don’t think they’ll be daunted by it, but will know it’s going to be as tough as it gets.

“It should be exciting for them. As a backs-to-the-wall scenario, you don’t get any bigger, but it’s bloody do-able.”

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After being outplayed by Ireland at home in the 2-1 series defeat, the All Blacks should be buoyed by playing a different opponent with different style.

Donald was confident that Foster’s side could trouble South Africa with their counter-attacking game if the home side’s kicking game was off.

“There are parts of the New Zealand game that will always trouble the Springboks, and if they don’t get their kicking game perfect, and it doesn’t flow on to their defence being able to set, all of a sudden a big part of their game is gone,” he said.

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On the 2009 tour the Springboks’ kicking game did expose an All Black weakness under the high ball which Donald said led to changes in how they prepared after returning home.

“They were bombing the hell out of us with their centres Fourie and de Villiers smacking you on the perfectly timed 28-metre kicks… it almost exposed our lack of attention to high-ball catching,” he explained.

“Coming back from that trip, Mick Byrne became very central to the coaching as far as the catch, escorting and blocking chasers.”

The aerial game is expected to be a key part of the two-match series as the Springboks have shown a desire to kick over 40 times a game in some cases, with Faf de Klerk’s repetitive box kicking on show last year.

All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett was exceptional last year in Townsville to combat the Springboks’ extreme levels of kicking in the 100th test between the sides, and he shapes as a key man for the visitors in their quest to turn around their lean run of results.

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