'Let them defend 7, 8, 10 phases': Boks not stressing All Black defence enough
The Springboks style of rugby in their loss to the All Blacks in Townsville has once again come under scrutiny, after the side kicked incessantly to the detriment of the spectacle.
For ex-All Black John Kirwan, the game ‘brought him to tears’ and he questioned whether it aligned with the values of the game on the post-match broadcast and the mid-week show The Breakdown.
On the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall was asked whether this approach goes against the heart and soul of rugby, which is about running with the ball. William Webb Ellis picked up the football and ran with it.
“I think that’s the problem. For us Kiwis, it is a style that we are not used to,” Hall explained.
“South Africa has had a couple years of this, I’ve watched that British & Irish Lions series, it was a kick-a-thon, about field position and set-piece parity, putting teams under pressure through the kicking game.
“I think we struggle as Kiwis to understand it, but I don’t see it that way.
“Look at South Africa, the last two test matches against Australia when they did play, they wanted to play a little bit more and through not executing really well under pressure, not getting the points they wanted to, they went back to around 38 kicks against us which is what they had against the Lions.”
The questionable tactic was most exemplified by Herschel Jantjies who kicked away possession in the 77th minute with his side down by two points and working in field position to potentially earn a penalty.
Former All Black James Parsons said that the moment ‘probably cost them the game’ in reality, and that the Springboks showed they have the ability to run with the ball more.
“Even before that, they had made some good bends through putting the ball through the hands. Vermeulen ran down the right-hand side, would’ve made 20-25 metres from using the ball through the hands,” Parsons said.
“So they do have the ability to go there if the space is there.
“Look, I was surprised they went to the box kick [in the 77th minute], and that’s great that Siya says that’s the plan but in the end that probably lost them the game. That’s the reality of it.
Parsons explained that the Springboks should consider finding more balance, just like any side that tries to overplay their hand. For South Africa, it means letting their big forwards smash the gain line and exert pressure in a different way.
“It’s just like when we talk about teams with a lot of flair with ball-in-hand, it’s having the balance to play the tactical kicking game as well. I think there needs to be a little bit more balance.
“I think it was around the 47th minute, it’s good lineout ball off the top, quick ball, and Faf de Klerk puts up a box kick on the 22. I’m not saying it is the wrong tactic, it’s just they’ve worked so hard to get down there, they are quite good at being dominant in the collision area.
“As we know, when you get into the 22 metre zone, the forwards roll their sleeves up and suck the defence in to build up and opportunity for the backs to expose. That’s when I thought they could come into their own a little bit with their physical prowess.
“Their latch carriers, Marx and co running over that gain line, rather than one ruck and then kick.
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall agreed and went as far as saying that ‘they are not stressing the All Blacks enough defensively’ with a low phase approach that kicks away possession after one or two phases.
Although the kicking trouble the rhythm of the All Blacks game, the Springboks never looked like scoring a try and never tested the All Blacks defence enough. Using their strength of ball carrying, they could tire out the All Blacks more than they did in Townsville.
“I agree. Every time you play a South African team, with how big they are and such big ball carriers, especially when they latch, get the guy in behind to hold on to them and push them through contact. They do that really, really well,” Hall said.
“I think that marrying up of being able to see the kick opportunity but then let the forwards exert a bit of pressure onto the All Blacks. Let them defend 7, 8, 10 phases, just having those big ball carriers.
“Sometimes you can give it out to the backs for an opportunity on the edge. The All Blacks gave away 10 penalties, they are just not stressing them enough defensively.
“When you defend that high phase count, even when you are a good defensive team, you are either going to come through with seven points or three points due to the ill-discipline of the defensive team.
“At least extracting a bit of defensive energy from the All Blacks instead of just putting up 50-50 contests in the air.”
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