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Is Boks’ game plan still working?

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South Africa’s Handré Pollard competes during the rugby Championship match against New Zealand in Townsville on September 25, 2021. Picture: Patrick Hamilton, AFP

Mike Greenaway and Wynona Louw give their opinion on whether the Springboks’ game plan is working or not following a tough three weeks in Australia.

CAPE TOWN – In recent weeks there has been much debate concerning the strategies and tactics employed by the Springboks and head coach Jacques Nienaber.

The Boks are on a three-game losing streak having come unstuck against Australia, and then narrowly losing to the All Blacks this past weekend.

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On Saturday, they will face the Kiwis in the return match of the Rugby Championship (kick-off 12pm) and here Mike Greenaway and Wynona Louw give their opinion on whether the game plan is working …

Why the Springboks’ game plan does work, according to Mike Greenaway

The fundamentals of the Springbok game plan are sound and suit the players that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have at their disposal. In essence, they have cut a suit according to their cloth. The problem is that the game plan is being too rigidly implemented.

The game drivers – notably the scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback – have to take their heads out of the sand, open their eyes and recognise attacking opportunities once the groundwork has been done. The foundations are being well laid – the forwards are dominating the set pieces, they are also winning many of the collisions and they are turning over plenty of opposition possession.

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The aerial bombardment of the opposition is also working a treat. With all the practice they are getting, Handré Pollard and Faf de Klerk have got it down to a fine art, and the Bok chasers are excellent, especially Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi.

But once the ball is secured from the contestable kicks, it then needs to be moved by hand into space. The backs have to be backed to score tries once the forwards and the kicking game have established momentum.

Against the All Blacks last week, the Bok basics of the game plan had the Kiwis befuddled – they uncharacteristically scored just one try – but Pollard and De Klerk could not recognise when to stop kicking and start passing.

The Bok game plan is fine but it does need some fine-tuning …

Why the Springboks’ game plan doesn’t work, according Wynona Louw

This isn’t directed at the Springboks’ game plan per se, but rather one factor of their game: Selections.

With the Boks heading into their final Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Gold Coast this weekend and the competition already bagged by the Kiwis, why did Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber not play around a little bit?

Instead of doing that, Nienaber made just two injury-enforced changes for the clash, with Jasper Wiese and Ox Nche being called into the matchday squad, with Nche starting at loosehead prop with Trevor Nyakane switching to tighthead and Wiese taking over from Marco van Staden in the loose trio.

ALSO READ: Did Boks over-correct against All Blacks?

Flyhalf Handré Pollard has been in poor form recently and his game management woes and mediocre execution continued at the weekend, with not only some off decision-making in key moments, but also wobbly kicks from hand. Yet, the Boks are going down a dangerous path where players are given chance upon chance seemingly based on reputation, leaving the public to ponder why this kind of form seems to be rewarded.

Now, Nienaber and Co probably have a plan, but Pollard making the starting line-up again gives the impression that incumbents can remain cushy in their starting seats despite a string of dropped performances and possibly match-costing mistakes.

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The same can be said for the likes of Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux. Sure, in some of the Boks’ Rugby Championship games a number of Boks were far from their best. But, wouldn’t this have been the perfect time to give other players a starting berth, especially considering that this is a dead-rubber?

Not only would it be a lesson that form is rewarded, but that rich depth the Boks have at their disposal would also be granted an opportunity to build experience against one of the world’ best sides … instead of just adding to their Test caps with a couple of minutes off the bench.

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