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Ex-Wallabies coach Robbie Deans defends Springboks' tactics

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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Former Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans has leapt to the defence of the Springboks in the wake of heavy criticism aimed at their conservative style of play.


The reigning world champions have been the talk of the rugby world after they fell to a third successive loss when they were beaten 19-17 by the All Blacks in Townsville last weekend.

That result came after South Africa lost twice to the Wallabies the fortnight beforehand, but it was the way in which the Springboks lost to New Zealand that caught the attention of onlookers due to their negative tactics.

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Mostly through the boot of halves pairing Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard, the Springboks kicked the ball incessantly, regardless of what the scoreboard read or where they were on the field.

They kicked so much that the ended the match with more than double the number of kicks than the All Blacks, while they had less than half the number of passes of their Kiwi opponents.

That ultra-conservative style of play managed to stifle New Zealand’s attacking mindset for large parts of the game, but it drew the ire of many critics, many of whom also took issue with South Africa’s gamesmanship while the ball was out of play.

One of those critics is Deans, who defended the Springboks by saying they are entitled to play however they please, but expressed his concerns at their off-the-ball ploy slowing the game down to a standstill.


“I think theyare missing the creative genius of Cheslin Kolbe because he has got the capacity to unlock games but, personally, I don’t agree with the narrative around that there is a specific way that you should play,” Deans said, as per Stuff.

“What makes rugby is the ability for teams to choose a way that suits their DNA, and … gives them the best chance of succeeding. Which is important.”

“The elephant in the room in this discussion, to be honest, is not so much the method. Last week was a great contest; the issue was the ball out-of-play,” he added.

“That is the issue that needs to be addressed by the powers that be. You can blame the adjudicators, or the people assessing them, but the flow in the game is gone. There are too many stoppages, and you spend too long looking at the screen.”


Deans, who coached the Wallabies to nine wins over the Springboks from 14 matches during his tenure in charge of Australia between 2008 and 2013, said that while South Africa nearly succeeded in their bid to stifle New Zealand’s expansive, high-tempo game plan, it was frustrating to watch.

“That is where the frustration comes in, and it exacerbates any other gripes you have around the game,” the Panasonic Wild Knights boss said.

“There is no provision for that. If there’s blood (on a player), you go off. And you call their bluff when they are just taking a breather. If it happens again ‘sorry, you are off, and we carry on’. It is all manageable.”


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