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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.


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.


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.


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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