Some sage advice from Kiwis to Boks
PODCAST: The Springboks must fix their defensive systems and outdo the All Blacks‘ forward pack if they are to emerge victorious in this week’s historic Rugby Championship clash in Townsville.
That is the view shared by former All Blacks and Blues hooker James Parsons and Crusaders and Maori All Blacks scrumhalf Bryn Hall in their latest appearance on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod this week.
The Springboks head into their 100th test against the All Blacks on Saturday as rank outsiders to chalk up a victory after falling to successive defeats at the hands of the Wallabies over the past fortnight.
In doing so, the reigning world champions have lost their status as the world’s number one ranked side to the Kiwis as they failed to fire against the Australians on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane.
It also leaves the Springboks 10 points adrift from the All Blacks at the top of the Rugby Championship table.
That means they need two bonus-point wins over the Kiwis, deny their opponents a losing bonus point, and win by an aggregate total of at least 90 points across their next two matches to retain the competition title they won two years ago.
It’s a massive ask for the South Africans, whose plight has been attributed to their negative tactics after they were exposed by the more expansive and attacking-minded nature of the Wallabies.
Given the All Blacks play a similar style of play to the Australians, many expect the Springboks to struggle against their arch rivals at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, and Hall is among those sceptical of how Jacques Neinaber’s side will cope.
“I think the South Africans are going to have to adapt to the New Zealand style of play,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“The attacking brand of rugby that the All Blacks are playing at the moment through the interplay of their forwards, it doesn’t matter if you’re forward one to eight or even coming off the bench, our skillset at the moment is above a lot of teams.”
Hall was critical of South Africa’s defensive efforts against the Wallabies as they missed 19 of their 69 attempted tackles last weekend.
The 29-year-old added their recent defensive form in the Rugby Championship is a far cry from what they produced in their series victory over the British and Irish Lions earlier this year.
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
“If you look at Australia, South Africa operated at 73 percent defence, and, in the last two test matches, they haven’t tackled very well, and you’re probably going to go up a level when it comes into the attacking zone of how New Zealand are at the moment,” he said.
“South Africa are going to have to seriously look at their defensive system moving forward because New Zealand, at the moment, are going to put them under a lot of stress and a lot of pressure from that defence that South Africa just aren’t really living up to, which they did in the Lions series.”
Parsons echoed Hall’s sentiments as he took aim at their failure to effectively execute their rush defence system against the Wallabies, which he said has resulted in tries being leaked in their last two matches.
“It’s an area that we praised them for against the British and Irish Lions, and I think if you look at [Len] Ikitau’s second try, this is where you start seeing and understanding the dangers of rush defence if you do not get it right and are not connected to your man inside and out,” Parsons said.
“We saw [Handre] Pollard rush up to make a tackle and he slips over, and he slips just because, I believe, there was a little bit of uncertainty on who he was on, and then, from that slip over, it obviously enabled [Marika] Koroibete to free up Ikitau.
“We’ve seen that a couple of times in the last few weeks that, if you don’t nail it inside and out, they have to have the ability to sort of just go, ‘Okay, we’re numbers down’, or, ‘The pictures aren’t right here’, or, ‘We’re not connected’.”
The former two-test international suggested that the Springboks should take a leaf out of Australia’s book after they adapted their defensive game plan after being swept by the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup earlier this year.
“Don’t go solving issues on your own. You heard Dave Rennie when the Wallabies played the All Blacks, he said, ‘Defensively, we’re trying to solve issues on our own and we’re running out of our system’,” Parsons said.
“One of the biggest shifts that the Wallabies have made versus the Springboks is they are so set and clear in their system, defensively, that it’s making it hard to penetrate, and it’s the same for the Springboks.
“When they rush up, they’re in their system and they know they’ve got each other’s backs, but, more importantly, they’re not so worried about the edge because they believe they can get there. It’s more being broken through the middle.
“The week before, Samu Kerevi went through Faf de Klerk out wide and that set up a try for the winger [Andrew] Kellaway. He scored, and obviously Ikitau I just used as an example there.
“Those are the big things. They’re getting broken in the middle before getting to the edge, which then becomes an easy draw and pass, once they’re broken through the middle, to pick players off, so it certainly will be concerning.”
Parsons said the best way for the Springboks to resolve their defensive woes against the All Blacks is to front up physically and dominate the battle in the forward pack, as they did against the Lions.
That way, he said, the Springboks will have more time to make decisions both defensively and on attack, which will help mitigate the threat posed by the All Blacks.
“One of the biggest things I think that needs to be nailed is that they have a physical platform up front and start winning collisions,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“Some of the fierce collisions in that Lions series by numbers one to eight in that Springboks pack, there was a number of them, and if they can get back into that and winning and dominating those physical collisions, it’s easier to defend off because you can buy your defenders time to make decisions, and it’s easier to attack off because the opposition defence doesn’t have time to set and make good decisions.
“I think if they can win those physical collisions up front, which I think the All Blacks have done so well all year, if the Springboks can match that or bring more, then they’ll really bring themselves into this game.”
Those comments come after All Blacks lock and vice-captain Brodie Retallick made it clear his side need to dominate the South Africans physically if they are to negate the defensive line speed the Springboks have become renowned for.
“I think where they’ve caught us out the last couple of times was, when they did, through their line speed, defensively,” Retallick told reporters on Monday.
“They’ve outmuscled us and we haven’t been able to break them down through our attack and then they’ve punished us.
“I think, physically, you’ve always got the set piece battle, but dealing with their line speed and being able to make breaches and then convert them is going to be massive.”
By Alex McLeod, RugbyPass