Crunching the numbers: What to make of Bok tactics?
ANALYSIS: In the name of ‘entertainment’ it has been suggested that New Zealand “save the game” from the mind-numbing snore-fest that South Africa produces.
However, are the Springboks really that boring?
Let us be brutally honest.
Winning will never be boring and neither will be sitting at No.1
The Springboks have been doing that since 2019.
They finally surpassed New Zealand on the world rankings at the 2019 World Cup.
Maybe, just maybe, those who so despise the Bok tactics are just begrudging them their success.
However, despite the invidious motives of the critics, the Springboks and All Blacks have the same bournes – winning consistently and being the world’s top-ranked team.
Their methods just differ somewhat and – as was put so eloquently last week – they do it based on the athletic ability of the players at their disposal.
Nowhere was it better exhibited than in the opening round of the Rugby Championship.
Both New Zealand and South Africa scored comfortable wins, to enhance their status as the leading candidates in a two-horse race.
The All Blacks held a narrow 21-15 lead over the Wallabies, but pulled away in the second half to win 57-22.
The Springboks had a slightly more comfortable half-time lead, 21-9, before eventually winning 32-12.
As the statistics will tell you, New Zealand does prefer an expansive game, while South Africa is very defence orientated.
But then you knew that already.
Is that chasm between the tactics of the two teams really that vast?
Let us look at the match stats to see if the difference is really pharaonic!
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New Zealand 57-22 Australia
The All Blacks outscored the Wallabies by eight tries to three, despite the Aussies having 58 percent of the possession.
New Zealand made 659 metres from their 82 carries – eight metres per carry.
They beat 20 defenders and made 14 clean breaks, 90 passes and 10 offloads.
The All Blacks made 138 tackles and missed 14 – for a tackle success rate of 91 percent.
And they made just 16 kicks in play, with 70 percent of the play taking place in the Wallaby half. In fact, 48 percent of the play took place inside the Wallaby 22-metre area.
South Africa 32-12 Argentina
South Africa outscored Argentina by three tries to nil, despite Los Pumas enjoying 54 percent of the possession.
The Springboks made 398 metres from their 75 carries – just over five metres per carry.
They beat 19 defenders and made two clean breaks, 71 passes and three offloads.
The Springboks made 168 tackles and missed 21 – a tackle success rate of 89 percent.
However, the Boks made 38 kicks in play – meaning they played much less in their own half – with 74 percent of play taking place in Argentina’s half.
When the Boks missed tackles, had plenty of time to scramble.
As a result Los Pumas never crossed their tryline.
In contrast to the New Zealand versus Australia game, the bulk of the play between South Africa and Argentina (45 percent) took place between the Los Pumas 22-metre line and the halfway line.