While Papic never really believed in the art of defence, Erasmus and his troops have mastered the art of keeping the opposition at bay
It was former Orlando Pirates coach and Serbian Kostadin Papic who famously screamed “attack, attack, attack” in galvanising the tsunami of attacking waves that his team became famous for in the mid-2000s.
It would be prudent if incumbent Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus took a page out of Papic’s playbook in an effort to enhance his team’s playing style and winning culture ahead of their clash against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and to next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
While Papic never really believed in the art of defence, rather relying on his attacking style of play to sort that area of the game out, Erasmus and his troops have mastered the art of keeping the opposition at bay.
While many will want the Springboks to stick to their winning ploy of tackling the life out of the All Blacks in a similar manner in which they did to engineer that memorable win in Wellington, the truth of the matter is that it won’t be enough this time around to see the Springboks through.
Yes, the Boks must defend with all of their might and heart and replicate, if not better, the monumental statistics of Wellington but they will need to back it up with a five-star performance with ball in hand.
Nobody can take anything away from the courage and character the Boks showed, particularly in the dying moments and with their try-line under siege, in Wellington, however the All Blacks still managed to breach their line six times.
And so it will be important that the Boks add to their arsenal by sharpening up on their attack and making sure that they don’t only thwart the All Blacks’ lethal attack but put a dagger through their hearts by scoring more tries than them as well.
The Springboks have shown some creativity with ball in hand under Erasmus and have scored some spectacular tries – more so in the series win against England.
But what remains a concern for Erasmus’ men is their inability to finish off the many opportunities they have created in the Rugby Championship and this was glaringly prevalent in last weekend’s win against the Wallabies which should have been bigger on the scoreboard.
Key to the Boks scoring tries will be building on that creativity and the players being handed the freedom and licence to run that has the world in awe when the All Blacks have ball in hand.
With devastating speed, anticipation and a natural flair for the game out wide in Aphiwe Dyantyi and Cheslin Kolbe, the Boks’ inside backs should be creating and finding more space and time for the duo to do their thing.
At the same time, the forwards, especially the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth and even props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, will be crucial in creating that space by being deployed as dummy runners and additional hands in the backline in the same way the All Blacks have used them to draw the attention of defenders.
Add to this the barnstorming runs out wide of Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe and the Boks will find acres of space to unlock even the steeliest of defences.
In the same way that defence requires every member of the team to wear their heart on their sleeve so too does attack.
Gone are the days when it was up to just the backs to use the grey matter between their ears, the engineering and scoring of tries requires all hands on deck from the slow and heavier troops to the fast and trimmer men with double figures on their backs.
The coming together of both defence and attack will make the Springboks unbeatable and make wins against the All Blacks a norm instead of the rarity they have become. – Vata Ngobeni