Sports writer Mike Greenaway takes a look at five talking points from Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and the All Blacks.
Now that the dust has settled on the Springboks’ heart-breaking 19-17 defeat to the All Blacks, MIKE GREENAWAY looks at five talking points from the Centenary match between the old rivals.
The Bok forwards did their job
Apart from solidity in the set pieces, Siya Kolisi’s pack manufactured an incredible 13 turnovers at the breakdowns and rucks and mauls. That is a fine effort and it is such a pity that this invaluable source of possession was inevitably kicked away.
Any coach will tell you that is the best ball to attack with because the opposition defence usually hasn’t settled yet …
The Bomb Squad detonated
Okay, it was only a semblance of the six-strong Bomb Squad of the World Cup but the three front-rankers from that squad were playing off the bench together for the first time since Japan and boy did Vincent Koch, Steven Kitshoff and Malcolm Marx come to the party!
Their scrumming was superb – they forced two scrum penalties – and these guys also made an impressive impact in general play.
The Bok loosies were on fire
Siya Kolisi went into this match under pressure after having played below par in the two defeats to the Wallabies. By his own admission, he was a shadow of the player that was so good against the Lions. His response was to be the best South African on the park and had his team won, he would have been the Man of the Match.
Backing up Kolisi was much-improved Duane Vermeulen while Kwagga Smith – who was a controversial selection – made a nuisance of himself all over the park. He was exceptional, and then Marco van Staden came on and was even better!
So if the forwards were so good, why did the Boks lose?
The Boks lost because their game plan was too rigid. They made no secret of the fact that they were going to go back to basics and revert solely to the kicking game that served them so well in the World Cup and against the British and Irish Lions.
This was good and well but the problem is that having kicked and chased so well, they then failed to capitalise on the momentum and space they created. Instead of then moving the ball, they carried on kicking!
They squandered so many clear opportunities to attack it is scandalous.
Where to now for the Boks?
There is a worry now for the Boks that having emptied the tank against the All Blacks and all but won the game, they are not going to be able to play with the same intensity this week in the return match against the same side, and that there is a potential blow-out on the cards.
This second match is indeed going to be a major test of Springbok resolve. Will they be able to shake off the disappointment and “get up” once again and set the record straight? We can only hope so because the reality is that they only need to tweak their game plan a little to get far better results.
And that tweak is to allow themselves to use their backline when the forwards and the kickers have got them momentum … And not kick the game to death!