'Only time we saw that tactic': Cheslin Kolbe's lonely Lions series
World Cup hero Cheslin Kolbe was once again stifled in the second test against the Lions, making headlines for the wrong reasons with a misfortunate aerial challenge on Conor Murray that could have had serious implications for the Irish scrumhalf.
After three touches for 16 metres in the first test, Kolbe registered four touches for 14 metres and a yellow card in the second on another lonely night for the dynamic winger.
His magical touch for South Africa ‘A’ to set up Lukhanyo Am for a try in the warm-up match against the Lions is his only highlight of the tour so far, disappointing many watchers who were looking forward to seeing one of the world’s best players in action at the top level again.
Speaking on this weeks’ Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former Blues hooker James Parsons said he was excited early when it looked like the Springboks were looking to use their star out wide when in the right area of the field. He described a period of play that indicated a different approach was going to be used during the do-or-die game.
“I was really excited early on around the 10-minute mark, South Africa were about 30 metres out and they used the blind, made a little but of a breach then they came back to the 15, crashed there,” Parsons recalled.
“It wasn’t ‘on’ open, so they went back to the blind, set a ruck, came back to the 15. And then the picture was obviously ‘on’ to call it to the open.
“They called it open, they broke on the edge because they had sucked in the Lions’ defenders and they got Kolbe some space. And I thought, ‘they are here to play’.
“And I was like ‘this is great’, they’ve got a clear tactic, yes they want contestables out of their half, but when they get close they are here to play.
“He [Kolbe] breached down the edge, there is a little bit of slow ball, and South Africa went back to one-dimensional, one-off runners. They ran out of options really and Am just put a grubber through.
“I was just surprised that was the only time we saw that tactic. Pretty much after that, they score two great tries off the back of forward dominance and using the kick, but it wasn’t so much the attacking flair that we were wanting to see.”
Neither side showed much in terms of attacking play with ball-in-hand, limiting not only Kolbe’s influence but the best of the Lions’ stars as well.
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall emphasised just how hard it is to play off aerial contests with the traffic being put around the high ball contests.
“If you are talking around how the Springboks play, it’s really hard,” he said.
“If you don’t want that aerial battle, look at the escorts, there are three people coming. Both teams are doing that. To be able to play off that is really hard.
“The previous week, they [Lions] won that aerial battle whereas this week Hogg, Van der Merwe, made some uncharacteristic mistakes under that high ball. From that, the South Africans pounced.
James Parsons highlighted how the Lions may have missed an opportunity to expand their game and play a little more like what they had done during the warm-up games. Their ‘reserved’ play in the first half didn’t show any willingness to take risks and it cost them.
“We were talking a few weeks ago during the warm-up games, I was loving the attack. The tips, the balls out the back, the willingness to play,” he said
“I think around the nine minute mark, the Lions are in the 22 and it’s literally pick and go, pick and go, pick and go. And then penalty, go for three.
“It wasn’t the same flair or willingness to play.
“I believe you are one up in the series, this is the game to chance your arm and go and win the series. It seemed a little bit reserved.
“All that possession and territory, they didn’t get reward for it. In that first half, they had 60 percent possession and 60 percent territory and go no reward.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now