Springboks won't change, All Blacks have players to beat them - Nick Evans
Former All Black Nick Evans, whose attacking expertise helped guide Harlequins to a stunning Gallagher Premiership title success last season, predicts the Springboks will not change their controversial style before defending the Rugby World Cup title in France in 2023 and is confident New Zealand have the keys to beat the most dominant team in the sport.
The Springboks are either the best team in world rugby having increased their lead at the top of the rankings with successive wins over Argentina after defeating the British and Irish Lions 2-1, or the chief exponents of a brand of rugby that is boring and nearly put Ian Foster, the All Blacks head coach, to sleep.
Thanks to the impact of COVID-19, the Rugby Championship has been moved en bloc to Queensland which means the 100th meeting between the Springboks and All Blacks will now take place on September 25 at the 25,000 seater stadium in Townsville. This is the match that will help settle the debate over the way the Springboks play the game.
Evans said: “Do I think South Africa will keep playing this style of rugby up to the next World Cup in 2023 in France? Yes, I do because it is their identity and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be sustainable because they are the best at it. It is up to other teams to try and break that down which is what we want. We want clashes of different styles and I know South African fans who look at the way their team plays and say “ that is South Africa” – bullish, physical and if you don’t turn up you will get run over and beaten up. That’s brilliant.
“If the Springboks were to try and change then someone would have to come in change the alignment of the coaching throughout South African rugby. I do think that the All Blacks have the keys to break down the Springboks who, because of their line speed in defence, do get narrow and if you can get parity at the break down and quick ball then there will be space in the wider channels.
“The thing about the All Blacks is that they are so ruthless around when the opportunity comes along to attack but prior to that they are very patient and stay within their attacking shape. New Zealand are the most ruthless team in the sport at exploiting attacking opportunities and one of Richie Mo’unga’s strengths is his ability to patiently wait for the opportunity and then make the right decision. When Finn Russell came on for the Lions in the final test he created space and a two on one. New Zealand play with speed in terms of decision making and when Russell executed quickly we saw him make an impact and I would like to think the All Blacks can do that a lot quicker than the Lions.
“If you get the opportunity to split the field against South Africa then all of sudden line speed in defence is not as effective. That is why they kick from No9 into the 15m channel because to come off an edge there is so hard. New Zealand have the players to beat South Africa and it will come down to matching them at the set piece and in physicality. If they can create four or five more unstructured opportunities than the Lions did, that will suit them.”
Evans, 41-years-old, was capped 16 times by the All Blacks before becoming the most influential outside half to ever pull on a Quins jersey and he is now building a reputation as an attack coach that will, inevitably, lead him into an international role. Evans said: “I admire the Springboks because they are the world champions and are successful at what they do and to beat the Lions is no mean feat in itself. I admire the way they execute their plan and there is a total buy-in by everyone and they are very well coached.
“Personally, I don’t want to see all teams playing the same way and one of the great things about the Premiership- which isn’t talked about enough – is there are a of different styles in the competition. We have a very clear idea of why we kick to create a transition opportunity because we are the best the league at doing that. Our style suits our personnel and the characters we have in the club and is aligned to our identity, vision and purpose in terms of entertainment and inspiring people. That is how we play.
“We have to be very physical at the break down because teams will try and slow down our ball and we understand that will be the case. The public want entertainment but we are judged on results. The No1 team in the world plays a certain style of rugby and the second best something different. “
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