Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mampipi, Sbu Nkosi/Cheslin Kolbe are lethal attackers but in Townsville, they were simply ball chasers, writes MIKE GREENAWAY.
DURBAN – FIRST up let us praise the Springboks for “rediscovering their soul,” as Siya Kolisi put it, in an effort that did justice to the green and gold jersey and the 100 years of rivalry with the All Blacks.
This was after two limp-wristed defeats to the Wallabies in which the Boks looked burnt out and at odds with themselves in that they strayed a little from the blueprint that defeated the British & Irish Lions.
In those losses, it looked like the criticism that they were boring and one-trick ponies had got to them and they loosened up a touch, but looked uncomfortable in the process, at times running the ball across the field like an uncoached school team, and doing it at injudicious times.
And the criticism came for that too! The consequent refrain from the Bok camp was that they were going back to their bread and butter, and the world be damned!
And few Springbok supporters would have quibbled with that because it would have been hopeless for their team to try and reinvent themselves a week before one of the most important matches in Springbok history.
The problem is that the Boks over-corrected. They went solely back to the kicking game that beat the Lions and won the World Cup, and then some, and that was too much because even against the Lions there was scope to attack.
By all means, use your box kicking and your up-and-unders to get you territory and possession (should you win the ball back – and the Boks are good at that) but then for heaven’s sake move the ball!
Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mampipi, Sbu Nkosi/Cheslin Kolbe are lethal attackers but in Townsville, they were simply ball chasers.
To use a battle analogy, once the artillery has done its work in softening up the defence, you unleash the cavalry … But the Springbok cavalry remained frustratingly corralled …
Schalk Burger, almost exploding with frustration in the SuperSport studio, said as much when he questioned why – when the Boks were cruising forward with momentum after successful phases, with the All Blacks back-pedalling and space opening up at the back – Handré Pollard then kicked the freaking ball!
And it went dead over the goal-line, for good measure.
Faf de Klerk did the same a number of times, and at the end, Herschel Jantjies, too.
Clearly, the Bok game drivers were strictly following an inflexible script because they didn’t dare deviate from it, and that is just wrong.
The decision-makers cannot play robotically. Yes, there must be a broad game plan but one that also gives freedom to players to play what is in front of them, that is, pass the frigging ball if you see a teammate in a prime position to attack and score.
Jacques Nienaber said there was nothing wrong with the tactics, notably when the Boks continued to kick when in the lead with only a few minutes to go when all of South Africa was screaming “hold onto the ball”, and he would argue that if Jordie Barrett’s kick had missed, the Boks would be heroes and praised for their brilliant blueprint.