Sports writer MIKE GREENAWAY looks at five areas where the Springboks must excel in if they want to beat the All Blacks in their 100th meeting.
THE SPRINGBOKS have less than a week to pick themselves up off the Rugby Championship canvas and then go toe-to-toe with the heavyweight All Blacks in Saturday’s 100th meeting between the teams. That is not a lot of time to sort themselves out, but there are some obvious areas that need fixing …
Mike Greenaway looks at five areas where the Boks must shine up.
Tighten up the defence
For so long the Bok defence was virtually impregnable, but all of a sudden they are falling off tackles. It doesn’t make sense, given the pride the Boks take in their tackling and it is also coach Jacques Nienaber’s area of expertise.
The Boks missed 21 tackles in their first defeat to the Wallabies and then missed another 20 at the weekend. Two Australian tries were the direct result of straight forward missed tackles. The All Blacks are going to ask plenty of questions on defence, so the Boks have to pull themselves together.
Discipline is non-negotiable
This is another part of the game where the Boks have inexplicably gone backwards after having been mostly well behaved in the series against the British & Irish Lions. The Boks paid a big price – 12 points – when Faf de Klerk was yellow-carded against the Wallabies for the silliest offence.
When he put his hands in at a ruck, he looked like a kid getting caught with his hands in the cookie jar. If the Boks go a man down against the All Blacks, they will get savaged. The week before captain Siya Kolisi was also carded for a mindless act – a tip tackle – and he was lucky to only get a yellow.
Brush up on the basics
There is not enough time for the Boks to reinvent themselves, not that they actually need to.
They just need to get better at what works for them and which helped them see off the Lions. They have just been sloppy at the things they usually do so well.
Their line-out mauling is usually their great strength and while the Australians should be given credit for doing their homework, the Bok forwards were clumsy in their execution. It was inexcusable to see the ball being thrown in skew in the line-outs, for example.
Of course the Boks are hurting, and so they should be. But the pity party must end immediately because if they go into this week’s match still feeling sorry for themselves they are going to be far sorrier at the end of it.
The Boks need to remind themselves of just how much they have accomplished and how good they can be when their minds are right. I don’t think they were mentally up for these games against the Wallabies. You can always tell where a team is mentally by how they tackle, and 41 missed tackles in two games says a lot.
Stick to the plan
I got the impression that the Boks strayed from what works best for them in this last match.
Don’t get me wrong I want to see the wings get the ball and the backs scoring tries as much as anyone, but the Boks looked uncomfortable when they tried to attack from deep.
The Rugby Championship is not the arena to try new things and if they do things half-cocked against the All Blacks they are going to pay dearly.
As unattractive as the Boks’ playing style is, it has worked against the best teams in the world and it can work again on Saturday.