The three significant threats the Springboks pose for the All Blacks
Former All Blacks hooker James Parsons and Crusaders and Maori All Blacks halfback Bryn Hall have pinpointed squad depth, a strong kicking game and defence as three of the biggest threats the Springboks pose for the All Blacks this year.
The South Africans did so after making wholesale changes to their match day side after they clinched a series victory over the British and Irish Lions the week beforehand.
Ahead of this week’s re-match against Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Springboks head coach Jacques Neinaber has welcomed back a raft of his frontline players as South Africa aim to leapfrog the All Blacks at the summit of the Rugby Championship standings.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Hall said the depth at South Africa’s disposal, which Parsons described as “impressive”, was on full show in last week’s first-up victory over Los Pumas.
“When you can make that many changes against an Argentinian team, who beat the All Blacks last year and actually quite a tough nation to play, [was impressive],” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
The three-time Super Rugby champion and two-time Super Rugby Aotearoa winner added that South Africa’s game plan, that sees them play with minimal possession inside their own half, has proven to be effective.
“The only time they want to play is when they’re inside the 22. They build that scoreboard pressure, they build off their kicking game, their rush defence, and the only time they really play is when they are inside that 22.”
Parsons noted that the Springboks kicked almost twice as much as the All Blacks, Wallabies and Los Pumas in the opening round of the Rugby Championship, the same round of which New Zealand thumped Australia 57-22.
The former two-test international said it highlighted the contrasting styles of play between the world champions and their opponents.
“When they get the ball, they’re just going to pin you into your corner, so it’s like ruthless defence, and then, bang, go backwards, and then the big Argentinian forwards are running backwards all day,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“They kicked 46 times, the South Africans, in this game [against Los Pumas last week]. Compared to the All Blacks and Wallabies, the All Blacks kicked 26 and the Wallabies 25.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 21, 2021
“Argy kicked 29 times, but it does show that, off the back of their defence in a style of play that they want to play with their kicking game, it works, and it gets them results.”
Parsons added South Africa’s rush defence could also wreak havoc with their upcoming opponents, as it did for Los Pumas when halfback Cobus Reinach finished off a long-range try following an Argentina mistake during last week’s win.
“They’ve got so much confidence in their defence,” Parsons said.
“Off the back of their rush defence, they force a lot of errors, they make you have to make decisions a lot faster than other teams and, off those errors, they scored one long-range try early from those errors.”
It’s for that reason, along with South Africa’s admirable depth and vastly different style of play to that of their southern hemisphere rivals, that Hall is eager to see the All Blacks and Springboks go head-to-head in September and October.
“What I’m really looking forward to… is when the All Blacks [play the Springboks]. They want to play rugby, very similar to the Lions before they went into the series, they were playing a lot of rugby,” the 29-year-old said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see if the All Blacks can get through that defence system, because the defence system is pretty good at the moment.
“So, it’s going to be interesting to see if they have a Plan B if they can’t get their attacking structures right against the South Africans.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 20, 2021
Parsons agreed as he said the result of those clashes could fall either way given how little there is between the All Blacks and Springboks.
“Two teams peaking into form as well. It’s just different styles of play and it’s the team that adjusts the best. You know what’s coming from both of them.
“If you talk about the turnovers, and the opportunities that the All Blacks create off turnovers, South Africa just do not play without the ball in their half. They’re just plugging the corners, so those opportunities are not going to go away.
“In terms of the build-up and talking and having a conversation, it’s just exciting because you don’t actually know which way it could go.”
The two tests between the All Blacks and Springboks were initially scheduled to be played in Dunedin and Auckland, but those plans have been thrown into disarray after New Zealand was sent into lockdown on Tuesday following an outbreak of Covid-19.
RugbyPass reported earlier this week that SANZAAR is now planning to relocate the entire Rugby Championship to the United Kingdom and Europe, meaning the All Blacks and Springboks could face off in London, Paris, Cardiff or Dublin.
South Africa have also come forward as potential Rugby Championship hosts, while Queensland is believed to be another contender the stage the tournament.
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