'We've seen them do that in the past': Foster not ruling out Boks booby trap
The All Blacks are expecting further aerial bombardment from the Springboks on Saturday night on the Gold Coast – but Ian Foster’s troops are also preparing for the unexpected.
The Springboks have utilised an exceptionally kick-heavy gameplan throughout 2021 and kept to script in Brisbane last weekend, hoofing the ball into the air 38 times.
While the All Blacks went into the match expecting the conservative strategy, the Springboks took things a step further than many anticipated, even choosing to use box kicks well inside NZ’s half. It made for a forgettable match with a nail-biting finish, with the All Blacks needing a late penalty from Jordie Barrett to secure them a 19-17 victory.
“It’s a different way to build pressure, isn’t it?” All Blacks assistance coach John Plumtree said earlier this week.
“We’ll know what to expect next week now because they’ll definitely bring that again.”
The Springboks used a similar strategy against the British and Irish Lions earlier this season, making 35 and 37 kicks in the first two games of the series, while they were relatively less kick-heavy in their recent matches prior to playing the All Blacks (favouring kick numbers in the late 20s).
Speaking following the team announcement of the All Blacks this week, coach Ian Foster backed up his assistants comments that the Springboks are likely to double-down on the approach this Saturday.
“I think they’ll be looking at their game and thinking they were probably one goal kick away from having a win,” he said, “and they probably trust some of the tactics they went about to do that so I don’t think [we’ll see] massive variations.”
Foster did, however, note that the Springboks haven’t been afraid to throw a few surprises into the mix in recent matches.
While they still opted for a kick-oriented game in the second test against Australia, they added some expansive running into their repertoire and tried to exploit their opposition out wide.
“We’ve got to come prepared for that because we’ve seen them do that in the past,” Foster said, “we’ve seen them do that in the second test against the Wallabies.”
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The tactic wasn’t necessarily especially effective, however, with the backs looking uncertain what to do will ball in hand and passes often finding the turf.
While there’s no doubt that the Springboks can play an expansive game and do have the artillery to cause some damage in the wider channels, it’s a strategy that will take some time to rebuild, given their propensity to give the ball as little air as possible – unless it’s via the boot.
While the Springboks have copped plenty of criticism for their inhibited play, Foster warned that it’s a strategy that has paid plenty of dividends in the past and not one that should be dismissed out of hand.
“I think that we’ve got to be careful we don’t border on disrespect for a team,” he said.
“They’ve chosen a style to play and it’s been very effective for them. It was very effective back in 2009 when they hailed bombs on the All Blacks and we lost three of four in a row to them so it’s not like this is new.
“And the last thing I think we will do as an All Blacks team is pass judgement on that because last week we saw how effective and good they are at it and we’ve just got to be as good at our game.”
Saturday’s rematch between the top two ranked sides in the world kicks off at 8:05pm AEST.
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