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Springbok Steven Kitshoff admits. ‘breakdowns a bit of a mess’ after All Blacks drubbing

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The breakdowns were a bit of a mess according to Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff following their Rugby Championship defeat to the All Blacks.

Shannon Frizell of New Zealand is tackled by South Africa’s Steven Kitshoff during the Rugby Championship Test matchat Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland
Shannon Frizell of New Zealand is tackled by South Africa’s Steven Kitshoff during the Rugby Championship Test matchat Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on July 15, 2023. Picture: Michael Bradley/AFP

Cape Town – He was the only Springbok who was really successful at the breakdowns, but Steven Kitshoff gave a wry giggle when asked if the contest on the ground was a ‘free-for-all’ in Saturday’s 35-20 Rugby Championship defeat to the All Blacks in Auckland.

French referee Mathieu Raynal is usually someone who isn’t scared to make the big calls – and he did blow up the Kiwis for not standing on the correct mark at a line-out – but he allowed the New Zealanders to go boots and all into the rucks, which disrupted the South Africans’ rhythm on attack.

The All Blacks managed to counter-ruck the Boks off the ball a few times too, and ensured that scrumhalf Faf de Klerk had his hands full all night long – and not always legally so.

“It was a bit of a mess. We did look at it in the prep during the week, and we knew that if you had watched the All Blacks-Argentina game, you could see there is a lot of pressure when it came to breakdown,” loosehead prop Kitshoff, who won a few penalties of his own in that area, said during the post-match press conference at Mount Smart Stadium.

“But ja, it’s something that we’ll have to definitely work on to create a bit of quicker and cleaner ball for our nines to attack from.

“But ja, it was a bit of a free-for-all … For us, it’s just controlling the controllables in those scenarios.”

The 31-year-old front-rower, who played in his 73rd Test, felt that the visitors weren’t able to gain the required scrum dominance, and were too sloppy in the opening quarter, where the Kiwis ran up a 17-0 lead.

The Boks slipped a number of tackles too, and struggled to deal with the high ball from smart All Black kicks.

“I felt, especially at scrum-time, that the first half was a big battle. We got some ascendancy towards the back-end of the first half, and starting with the second half… we conceded a few scrum penalties towards the end,” Kitshoff said.

“But we knew that the All Blacks are one of the best teams in the world, and they pride themselves on the way they attack. But also with good attack, you need a great set-piece, so a lot of credit to them.

“I think there are a lot of learnings for us, especially when it comes to set-piece defence, and the way we executed on our own ball. It was a tough, tough game when it came to set-piece.

“We had a very bad start, conceded a quick 17 points in the first 20 minutes. So, I think it was something for us to look at, just getting a better start and making sure we do not go so far behind that it’s almost impossible to play catch-up rugby.

“It’s looking at our structures, making sure we get our stuff in place and making sure we actually get that good start – especially when it comes to the top five teams in the world, because team structures are so good defensively and attack-wise, set-piece that you can’t afford to go down 20-odd points and expect to fight your way back.

“But I am still proud of the way that we kept on fighting until the end.”

@ashfakmohamed

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