'I actually went up and thanked him': Lesson All Blacks will take into Pumas contest
While things didn’t exactly go the All Blacks‘ way under the high ball in Mbombela, the travelling New Zealanders were able to turn the tide in Johannesburg and get the better of the Springboks at the aerial contest.
As was expected of the Springboks halfbacks, Faf de Klerk and Jayden Hendrikse and Herschel Jantjies launched the ball to the skies repeatedly from the base of the ruck over the two matches in South Africa and the NZ back three desperately struggled to gain clean possession in the opening Test of the series.
Things took a turn for the better at Ellis Park, however, with the All Blacks making things more difficult for the Springboks kickers and chasers, and the visitors were able to get the upper hand, springboarding them to an impressive 35-22 win.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s clash with Argentina, fullback Jordie Barrett acknowledged the work of the men around him who made his job easier in the Springboks rematch, including brother Scott Barrett who led the charge on the South Africa No 9s.
“There’s a lot more that goes into [contesting] ball-in-the-air,” he said. “I personally take a lot more pride in that, just go up and own the ball, and it was as simple as if we got up and caught a few more balls, you go a long way to winning a Test match.
“That’s all I was trying to control and we had some outstanding kick pressure on their 9, a lot of counter-rucking that made it a little messy. A few charge downs and some kick pressure which certainly made my job easier.
“We locked them into a bit of a corner in Ellis Park and made it uncomfortable for their 9s. I didn’t really notice in the game but after watching the footage, I actually went up and thanked [Scott Barrett] for putting all that pressure on the 9s. That certainly makes my job a lot easier when I can just get up there and try and own that responsibility.”
The All Blacks will be taking on Los Pumas at Orangetheory Stadium this Saturday and the Argentinians are fresh off a mighty performance of their own, thumping the Wallabies 48-17 in San Juan last weekend. In that victory, they also regularly employed box kicks off breakdowns to create contestable situations on attack and it paid off in a big way, with the Wallabing making countless errors under pressure from the Argentinian chasers.
Unsurprisingly, Barrett has suggested that the All Blacks will be once again putting themselves to the test under the high ball at training this week.
“I was watching a few of their training clips on the computer yesterday and they’re outstanding in the air right across the board,” said the All Blacks fullback. “[Emiliano] Boffelli, he’s world class.
“They’ve scored quite a few tries from kick pressure and guys getting up and retaining the ball. We spent a lot of time preparing for South Africa catching contestables but I think we almost have to prepare the same for the Argentinians, if not more. They’ve got some outstanding athletes, great on their feet and awesome in the air so it’s going to be a big week for the back three.
Barrett also noted that the Pumas had dangermen across the park and that the All Blacks would have to remain on their toes throughout the 80-minute contest.
“Watching a lot of footage, they can score tries from anywhere and a lot of the time it’s – I say unconventional in the most respectful way. They’ve just got some outstanding footwork, particularly midfield and outside backs, and then forwards that have a real good short passing game now. Seen a lot of variation in their game where their props and socks, and hookers are tipping and throwing inside balls so they’ve got a diverse game plan that we have to come prepared for. They’ve got strike [players] all over the park.”
Saturday’s match is set to kick off at 7:05pm NZT with the Pumas chasing their first-ever victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand.
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