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'We know there is a lot of heat coming': All Blacks expecting Bok barrage

By Ben Smith

Trending on RugbyPass

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All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree is very familiar with South African rugby, having played for the Natal Sharks for a decade and coached the side once his playing days were finished.

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From provincial rugby with Taranaki, Plumtree made the leap to Durban to join the Sharks were he played for the club 80 times. Having lived and breathed South African rugby, Plumtree is expecting a backlash this week as they prepare to take on the All Blacks after two straight losses to the Wallabies.

“They’ll be hurting a lot,” Plumtree told the media at Tuesday’s press conference.

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“They are a proud rugby nation and they think they will have a bit of a corral mentality especially when their own media and fans, when they start getting stuck into the Springboks that’s when they became an even more dangerous animal.”

Plumtree didn’t think the Springboks would change too much from their kicking-oriented game, saying it was ‘too late’ and ‘wouldn’t make sense’, instead looking at finetuning the areas of the game that have brought them success in the past.

“They’ll be working hard on their game this week. It’s too late for them to change how they want to play, that just wouldn’t make sense but they’ll certainly be looking at the areas that are letting them down.

“I think the coaching staff will be smart enough to not overreact to the last couple of weeks. They’ll be looking at parts of their game that they have just got to get better at.

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He believes they will be ‘significantly’ more accurate this weekend when the face the All Blacks for the 100th time, and that his forward pack is in for the toughest game since he’s been involved in the national set-up and urged his side to keep the tempo high so they don’t fall into the Springboks ‘trap’.

“I think it will be significantly better. Their kicking game is obviously a real weapon for them, their forward play, their defensive line speed, so they will be tinkering with parts of their game that are their strengths,” he said.

“We know there is a lot of heat coming and we’ve got to be able to deal with that.

“We saw how good they were at the World Cup in those parts of the game, that’s what they’ll go back to.

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“For the forwards, this is going to be the toughest forward battle since I’ve been involved. All the boys know that. Everything we do, has to have more power, has to have more speed. We’ve got to play the game at a high tempo because that’s our game, we can’t fall into the trap of allowing the game to slow down.”

Plumtree isn’t putting much weight on the Springboks’ last two outings against the Wallabies, expecting the South Africans to rise to the occasion as these contests always seem to come down to the final quarter.

“I think when it comes to these two teams, the form book gets thrown out the window,” he said.

“There is so much respect for each other’s games, what’s happened in the last couple of weeks really doesn’t matter. We’ve been going alright, they’ve been disappointing by their standards.

“We know that at the end of the day, these games are normally really tough struggles. I’ve seen a lot of these contests in the past and they are often pretty close in the final quarter. So we are expecting a titanic battle up front and there are some obvious parts of their game we have to worry about as well.

When asked about what he learned about the game of rugby while living in South Africa, Plumtree exalted that ‘physicality is everything’ for them.

He was positive about his experiences there and how he enjoyed playing under former Sharks coach Ian McIntosh who had adopted some parts of the New Zealand game.

“That physicality is everything, it comes naturally to them,” he explained.

“When I started coaching the Sharks, I tried to bring in more of a skill-based game. When I played there under Ian McIntosh, he loved New Zealand rugby and South African rugby as well obviously, and he combined the two.

“He wanted them playing a direct style of rugby that was based on forwards doing good work up front in the middle of the field so backs could score tries, wings could score tries.

“He was a brilliant coach when I was playing there. When I left, the Sharks had changed their style of rugby and when I came back I brought that style of rugby back in.

“It suited the Frans Steyns, the JP Petersons and the forwards were great, we had some outstanding players like Bismarck Du Plessis, AJ Venter, John Smit.

“My time at the Sharks was great, we didn’t play that simple plan that we are seeing at the moment. We wanted to play an extravagant style of rugby and I think that’s why we had some success against overseas teams.

“There game has changed again.

“It’s probably more of a bully mentality, around contestable kicks, really aggressive defence and forward play, scrummaging and mauling which suits their DNA.

“We’ve seen them play some pretty good footy in the World Cup and against the Lions. They can play. They’ve got some outstanding backs so you can’t trust them. You don’t know what is going to happen on the day, they can play.”

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'We know there is a lot of heat coming': All Blacks expecting Bok barrage

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