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Neil de Kock: How brutal Boks will look to land knock-out blow against All Blacks

By Neil de Kock
(Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

Against the All Blacks, the Springboks showed how to win a Test match in the most brutal and effective manner from start to finish.

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The Boks played pretty conservatively, were happy to put the ball in the air from inside their 10 and placed the All Blacks under pressure. Over and above winning the aerial duel, the players on the pitch were hunting down someone to tackle, and the energy levels were incredible throughout the contest.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen a game that was so brutal. The contacts and collisions that were met right up to the 80th minute ensured it was a really high calibre performance. I wrote about how the Springboks needed to start well against a team lacking confidence and they did. The All Blacks are in turmoil and even more so now after last weekend’s result.

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To be honest, it just didn’t ever feel like they were in the game. Even as the match wore on, I said to those around me: “The All Blacks haven’t threatened at all.” Bar the one try they scored, which was some individual brilliance expected of the All Blacks, the Boks kept them at bay and it was a total territorial dominance throughout which made it superb to watch from a South African perspective.

South Africa’s first port of call was definitely an aerial attack and even 40 metres out the Boks were quite comfortable to launch a bomb. Said tactic has proven effective and been sold to the team. At times, the likes of Lukhanyo Am and Kurt-Lee Arendse had a go at it in the outside channels. It would be great to see those players in more space but during the Test I felt that every decision the men in green made was based on merit.

Instead of a massive match, after 43 seconds Faf de Klerk had a massive knee that he came into contact with. It was so unfortunate but again it shows the bravery of the guy. Caleb Clarke is one of the biggest humans that you will find on a rugby field and Faf threw himself at him. He obviously got his head on the wrong side and has to follow the return to play protocol when it comes to dealing with concussions in this current climate.

Faf’s misfortune was Jaden Hendrikse’s opportunity. It opened up a great chance for Jaden, who again was solid as ever. He had a very dominant pack on the day but he controlled affairs and I thought he was commanding. Between him and flyhalf Handre Pollard, the Boks managed the game excellently. Hendrikse being outstanding again, stands us in good stead.

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We have really good depth at scrumhalf which is wonderful to see. Hendrikse’s promotion to the run-on XV opens up another opportunity for Herschel Jantjies, who will be champing at the bit to win back his place. It might be his chance to get on the pitch and show the coaches what he’s capable of and produced not long ago.

The Boks will go for three consecutive wins against the All Blacks for the first time since 2009. Are we able to do so? Absolutely. There is a lot of belief, good consistency in the group and, despite making five changes to the starting side this week, the Boks are hardly stepping back. It shows the depth the Bok coaches have created within the team.

If I were to really play the Grim Reaper, I would say our maul wasn’t as dominant as we have seen. That is either down to personnel playing together for the first time or owing to great All Black defence within the maul. But the Bok maul isn’t the only facet of play giving us dominance which is actually a very good sign.

In the first Test, our maul was strong but it wasn’t overly dominant. In turn, it says a lot about the Boks aerial game, kicking strategy, our collisions at the breakdown, our defence and when we’ve got the ball in hand. The fact that we aren’t just relying on one aspect of the game is a positive.

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We can look back and say it was one of the best Springbok performances we have seen in a long time but the challenge is to go out and do it again. All the pressure is on the Boks to deliver the same or an even better performance.

Don’t forget this is still the All Blacks and not a run-of-the-mill team. These guys were top of the world for a decade so it’s going to be a task to go out there and replicate what we did last weekend. I don’t agree with the school of thought that the Boks should have beaten the All Blacks by more points. To beat the All Blacks by the margin that we did is an achievement in itself.

The Boks have the All Blacks on the ropes and to land the knock-out punch at Ellis Park, I would suggest a similar approach – if not a carbon copy – to the one in the first Test. The plan is to suffocate, strangle and be extremely physical at every collision. The trick is to play at such an intensity but also be as accurate as we were in our last match.

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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