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Come on Springboks, do the All Blacks a favour

By Ben Smith
New Zealand players look on as the South Africa team celebrate lifting the Qatar Airways Cup during the Summer International match between New Zealand All Blacks v South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on August 25, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

A 71-3 point win over Namibia showed the All Blacks at their philosophical best, playing with expansive endeavour with halves pair Cam Roigard and Damian McKenzie getting the chance to cut loose.

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This intent was no different against France, only the quality of the opposition was lesser, allowing the All Blacks to find space and exploit it more often.

So while Roigard, McKenzie and Leicester Fainga’anuku made genuine cases for inclusion in the first choice gameday 23, it might not make much of a difference in a crunch quarter-final. The backline was not where the issues were against France.

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Contrary to what the final scoreline may suggest, the All Blacks did not have issues unlocking France with their attacking play.

Within sixty seconds they broke France open and capitalised on that Rieko Ioane line break with a flat Beauden Barrett kick pass to Mark Telea.

It was reminiscent of the opening stages against South Africa at Mt Smart where the attacking kicking game of Barrett and Mo’unga was used to either hit the edge as quickly as possible, or get the ball behind the defensive line with the chance to recover with dinks and dabs.

They just could not maintain the level of execution for as long in the hot humid conditions. The Mt Smart onslaught lasted 20 minutes for 17 points and in Paris it lasted for two minutes for five points.

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Almost immediately after the opening try Barrett tried a wide cutout ball right-to-left to Telea which sailed forward for a turnover around halfway.

The dangerous Telea was wide open with Damian Penaud out-of-sorts trying to play an outside-in defence scheme. Another line break went begging and France got the opportunity to turn the tables with the scrum, which they did.

Early in the second half the All Blacks produced a similar strike from a deft chip kick from Ardie Savea on the first phase which was recovered by Will Jordan. After the long break with the defence reeling, the ball was sent straight to Telea to take advantage again of Penaud’s positioning.

Against Namibia the All Blacks were equally keen to exploit the space available on the edge with an array of cross-field kicks and wide shifts.

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Caleb Clarke was frequently in the clear, although lacking the finishing form of Telea who has a knack for finding an offload or beating defenders with his footwork.

The All Blacks have been honing part of this game for awhile which hinges on having skilled kickers at 10, 12, 15, and even 14 at times.

After the home loss to Argentina in 2022 where they kicked just 15 times, the All Blacks found an identity with trust in pinpoint attacking kicks and daring exits running it out from inside their 22.

They have shown this in patches in 2023 but yet to really return to the type of play that saw them stun the Boks at Ellis Park or slaughter Los Pumas 53-3 in the second clash.

What is apparent is that the All Blacks cannot afford to be without their top forwards in order to find some parity up front against the other top four sides.

Against Namibia there were still slight concerns. Sam Whitelock was pinged multiple times for not rolling away at the ruck, Ofa Tu’ungafasi gave away a couple of penalties. It was sloppy around the edges despite a dominant scrum which gave the All Blacks a free ride.

Tyrel Lomax, Shannon Frizell, and Sam Cane make a big difference to the cohesion of the pack and their ability to stabilise the breakdown and scrum, which faltered against France.

The All Blacks seem to be cautious about bringing any of them back too soon, as they were with Brodie Retallick who was originally held back from playing France.

With a second place finish the best possible outcome for New Zealand, they will want to see South Africa top Pool B with an underdog victory over Ireland.

The teams that the All Blacks know they can blow wide apart when they get it right are the power teams, like South Africa and to a lesser degree, France.

Since Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber took over the Springboks, despite beating New Zealand often, they have never won a game against the All Blacks in a high stakes clash.

In 2018 they won the first one in Wellington but the decider for the Freedom Cup was in Pretoria and the Boks blew it 32-30.

In 2019 they drew in Wellington and lost in pool play in the two clashes.

In 2021 South Africa won the final clash after the Rugby Championship and Freedom Cups had already been decided a week earlier in the Townsville clash.

In 2022 with everything on the line at Ellis Park again in a decisive clash the home side bottled it and had 35 points hung on them.

In 2023 with the Rugby Championship and Freedom Cup trophies on the line at Mt Smart they were dusted in the opening 20.

South Africa came back to win the warm-up clash at Twickenham with the made-up Qatar Airways Cup, which at least they will keep forever because it will never be played for again.

The ultimate pretenders love showing up when nothing is on the line. The All Blacks would love to see them again as the alternative is Ireland who they’ve managed just one win against from the last four outings.

However, South Africa’s best chance of progressing is also against the All Blacks. It would be wise to avoid playing the host nation on home soil until the final.

The best path forward for the third and fourth best teams is to meet each other, which means South Africa have to produce some magic against Ireland.

Come on Bokke, paste Romania and do us a favour next week please.

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Comments

170 Comments
B
Brian 224 days ago

This did not age well 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

F
Flankly 268 days ago

High stakes? You mean like smashing Scotland (ranked 5) in the key game in the pool of death, and allowing only 3 points against them? Or are you referring to the 100% record of winning the 3 RWC finals?

Stick is right that SA plays best under pressure. I would say that they rise to the big occasion better than any other team. It's when the Boks get complacent that they fall apart.

R
Ryan 270 days ago

"The ultimate pretenders love showing up when nothing is on the line."

That's a really brave statement by Mr BS right there.
(I'm finding his initials to be remarkably appropriate)

What exactly is he gonna say if these pretenders go on to beat his beloved AB's in the knockout rounds shortly after he writes this?
What will he do to save face?

I think I'll do him a favour and lend him my shovel if this ever happens, poor guy

T
Thomas 271 days ago

RugbyPass's resident entertainer and click-bait generator Ben Smith never disappoints. And the Springboks keep living rent free in his troubled head.
Whatever article he writes, it somehow always culminates in the same message, i.e. that the Boks suck.
One wonders why does he obsess so much about the "ultimate pretenders"? Why would anyone lose so much sleep over pretenders?
Poor Ben.

G
Gert 271 days ago

Ben Smith is an embarrassment. No All Black supporter can be proud of this kid.

e
etienne 271 days ago

Why on earth would the Springboks do the AB's any favor's. Its kind of embarrassing that a kiwi pundit ask for help. But why is that? The answer is easy, He know the AB's is not as good as they claimed to be and there for needs help from other teams......Tjek!!!!!! Go build your destiny.

J
Jack 272 days ago

A friend told me about this Smith clown, from the same school of thought as Nesbit, Kirwan and Wilson, apparently.

High stakes game he says - '95 RWC final comes to mind, Bronze final in '99 as well. To top it off, Wilson played in both those games, and lost both! But then they could not even get to the high stakes games in the other Cups.
SA has never lost a quarter, or final during RWC, nor a medal play off game! They lost the semi by 2 points in 2015, against NZ, a game that hung in the balance to the end!
NZ has lost in all those situations! Maybe a shortage if BMT!
Seems people who have a proper grasp of the English language understands that REAL high stakes games are won on the ultimate stage, the RWC - ANY rugby player would rather accept a loss in a pool game, that has NO bearing on the qualifying for the knockouts than missing out on a chance to win the big prize. If you do not win a quarter you can't progress.

R
Roger 272 days ago

As usual BS praating his BS. Anyways, it doesn't matter. ABs are good and so are Springboks. This is a high stakes game. Springboks might not have beaten ABs in high stakes game for some time but we know when it is important to lose a match if necessary. It is better to lose a pool match than a play-off match.

Anyways, I am not making anymore predictions because times are a-changing. Fiji beat England, and now Australia, Springboks score record win over ABs.

What I have noticed is you retain possession over the ABs and keep them defending they will leak penalties and get yellow carded. They complain "It isn't fair because you were playing a 14 man team". Well it wasn't us that red carded you. Dominance and possession is what ABs struggle against. If we keep doing that, they cannot win.

S
Sallee 272 days ago

Whoops sorry did I say 4 time winners! Silly me, forward thinking 🤣🤣🤣

S
Sallee 272 days ago

Gotcha chatting, do you honestly think 4 time winners Allblacks are worried about SA good God we don't even think about them. We changed our combinations and used them as our stepping stone we are sorted and France WHO !!! Will be an Ireland Allblack Final

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