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Neil de Kock: Boks have own blueprint when plotting All Blacks' downfall

By Neil de Kock
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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The 102nd Test between the Springboks and All Blacks will be a massively physical battle. The Boks will want to get under the All Blacks’ skin pretty early.

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New Zealand are rebounding from one of their biggest lows for quite some time and for South Africa, the key is to start well and really put doubt in their minds as to where they are at as a team.

For the Boks, it will be no different to how we approach most games in terms of really trying to dominate the opposition physically. It’s great to see Malcolm Marx starting in his milestone 50th Test match and what a servant he’s been to South African rugby. He would be a starter week-in and week-out in any other international team.

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Over and above asserting their physicality, it will be about controlling the set-piece, defending incredibly well and not giving too many poor kicks away. The Boks cannot afford to give the All Blacks too much kick-time return and opportunity.

For the men in green, it’s all good and well playing a kicking game but they have to execute effectively because the All Blacks are a devastating turn-over team and relish counter-attacking opportunities.

In the backline, the Boks have made two changes with Faf de Klerk and Kurt-Lee Arendse returning to the run-on XV. Arendse was fantastic when he had a first crack at it not too long ago. Meanwhile, I totally expected Faf to get back into the mix.

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I suspect you are going to see a massive display from him because such is his character and the competitiveness he holds deep within his bones. He has had the rub of the green against Aaron Smith of late and that is probably part of the reason the selectors brought him in. Faf gets under the skin of the All Blacks owing to his feisty nature, and I expect a big performance from him.

I don’t think he’s a player that gets complacent and is ever someone who gets used to wearing the number nine jersey. I think he realises at this level there is competition for places and it’s always a privilege to be a Springbok starter.

I agree with Jacques Nienaber who said that the Boks aren’t Ireland and won’t copy their attacking blueprint to beat the All Blacks but will look to emulate their accuracy and intensity. I think a lot can be taken from the intensity Ireland played at, with and without the ball.

They gave no inch and never allowed the All Blacks an opportunity to breathe even when they had the ball. They defended as if their lives were quite literally on the line and kept them out when they needed to.

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In terms of accuracy, it comes back to the point I made about when you are playing a kicking game and want to be effective, you need to make sure that you are accurate otherwise the men in black will hurt you badly.

Ireland have a certain way that they play in comparison to South Africa. I wouldn’t say their game style is more evolved than the Springboks because we play in a different manner. If you were Irish you could say the set-piece and kicking game of the Springboks has evolved like some South Africans would say of the Irish attack.

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The point is that we don’t play that type of game and focus particularly on attack. The attacking game is a weapon for Ireland. Johnny Sexton pulls the strings and there is a good understanding in the backs. Ireland’s game has definitely evolved but I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse than South Africa – we play differently so it’s difficult to compare.

Of the last five meetings, the Springboks have only won once with three wins for the All Blacks and one draw. I don’t make much of it. The recent games have been on a knife’s edge and it’s wonderful to see that the All Black-Springbok rivalry is back to where we always wished it would be. It’s tight and there is often nothing in it. It usually comes down to the last few minutes, with a kick or last-gasp try deciding the fixture’s outcome.

Inside the Springbok camp, the approach to the All Blacks is always one of respect in terms of what they have achieved and put out on the field. Both countries respect each other deeply even though we may play in different manners. It may be somewhat simplistic to say it’s Bok forward ‘might’ against All Black backline flair but when you talk of Springbok rugby it always comes down to forward power, while the All Blacks have incredibly dangerous counter-attackers and backline runners who can rip teams apart.

From an SA perspective, we can’t deny our strength upfront. We are proud of it and why would we not play to our strengths? So for South Africa, it’s about a dominant set-piece, the Bomb Squad coming off and having our six-two bench split as we have once again.

It’s about utilising the aforementioned players as effectively as possible so as to dominate possession and set-piece. If the Boks get into good positions within the opposition 22 and are then 10 metres out, we know that eight times out 10 we’ll come away with points, such is the strength of our pack.

I wouldn’t suggest we’ll start playing the ball from 60 metres and take it through 100 phases because it’s not in our DNA and what we do. But when the Boks get into good positions, and have an attacking line-out or scrum, of course we are going to play because coming away with points is first prize.

Following an 11-year career with Saracens, which saw him earn 264 caps, Neil de Kock now works in the rugby division at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport. De Kock, who featured in 10 Test matches for the Springboks, provides RugbyPass with expert insight and opinion focusing on South Africa.

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