- The Springboks have never had a better opportunity since 2009 to beat the All Blacks in consecutive Tests.
- The sides meet on 6 and 13 August in Mbombela and Johannesburg with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to do the double over the All Blacks.
- New Zealand, who are set to assemble on Monday, have retreated into their shell after their series defeat against Ireland.
New Zealand is currently experiencing an unprecedented meltdown when it comes to their beloved men’s national rugby team.
With the large wave of success they’ve experienced in the professional era, despite their inability to win the World Cup until 2011, this kind of dip wasn’t countenanced.
It’s true the All Blacks prepare for an odd Test defeat against bitter rivals South Africa and Australia every so often.
However, they weren’t ready for the kind of bruising series defeat they experienced at the hands of the Irish.
They’ve retreated into what is called in South African parlance a ‘laager’ to a point where All Black coach Ian Foster was shielded from a press conference by communications manager Jo Malcolm.
give ardie savea the IG password
— Ben McKay (@benmackey) July 21, 2022
The All Blacks are experiencing the coordinated chaos the Boks generally go through once every World Cup cycle.
It’s the seismic fallout from their underperformance that’s shocked the rugby-loving nation to its core.
However, the Boks will have learned not to underestimate the All Blacks, and with that, they’ll need to sharpen up on these five areas:
In the first Test between New Zealand and Ireland, All Black utility forward Scott Barrett got away with this shoulder charge:
This, from a South African player, would elicit howls of foul play and the cementing of the perception that Bok players are thugs.
That said, Barrett was carded and suspended in 2019 for a similar offence against Australia, but that was in Perth.
These are the small things that can become big things in the narrow margin affairs that are Springbok/All Black Test.
The Boks can easily get caught up in a niggle, with English referee Matthew Carley stopping an attacking Springbok play because of an off-the-ball matter in the recently concluded series against Wales.
The All Black, especially with their deficient forwards, will look to live on the fringes of the law and despite being dealt a rough hand with Angus Ta’avao’s second Test red card, they’re still in the referee’s good books.
The Boks must focus on the task at hand and not the sideshows that come with a disjointed All Black side.
Dan Lydiate, Adam Beard, Will Rowlands, and Alun Wyn Jones did an excellent job of reasonably negating the Bok maul.
Three of the seven tries the Boks scored in those three Tests came from the set-piece, but Wales generally did well to stop the Bok maul on several occasions.
The All Blacks will be without Brodie Retallick, their prime maul stopper who simply hasn’t been the same since RG Snyman manhandled him back in 2019, while their pack, while athletic and skilled, just doesn’t have the grafters that complete a pack.
That said, until last year’s Rugby Championship, New Zealand found a way of thriving with their pack issues, but they have since been exposed.
The Boks could do with the type of lineout variation the Irish effectively utilised to keep the All Blacks guessing, but the main thing, being the maul, must function effectively.
If New Zealand’s lineout falls apart as it did in the third Test, the Boks must be in a position to punish them.
Variety in play
A common theme from the Welsh coaches and players (who were delightfully engaging) in their press engagement, was knowing what was coming from the Boks.
That’s well and good to have the core functions of your game plans well figured out, but that also makes life easier for opposition sides.
Taking teams to deep, dark places is very important, but an added facet from an attacking perspective makes life hard for defending teams.
In the first and the third Tests, the Boks showed glimpses of varied attacking play that significantly worried the Welsh.
Some of those chances weren’t taken, and, against the All Blacks, that’s sacrilegious.
Former Springbok coach Jake White, who’s the director of rugby at the Bulls, has criticised the partial sterility in the Boks’ attacking play.
While it’s hurt the Bok coaching group, the Boks have tended to be profligate in the opposition’s 22, with Wales, across the three Tests, showing them how 22m entries should be capitalised on.
The Boks have the attacking players to give teams headaches with ball in hand, it’s just a case of being clear-minded and more accurate in their execution in the red-zone
Juggling bomb squad
The depth of the ‘Bomb Squad’ is as such, players who are there would generally be starters in other teams.
New Zealand would kill for props of the ability of Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch to start for them, let alone come off the bench.
However, two Highveld Tests against a New Zealand side that doesn’t tire as easily at altitude as compared to other teams means forwards, at some point, may need to be pressed into unaccustomed roles.
Frans Malherbe, for example, is probably the best starting tight-head prop in the world (Welsh loosehead prop Gareth Thomas can attest to this), but whether he can help for a strong finish is under question.
He can finish strong, with an example being the 2014 Salta Test against Argentina where he not only salvaged a faltering Bok scrum, he swung the game in the Boks’ direction before limping off injured.
The Boks’ front-row is skilled, strong, and uncompromising, but the feeling exists that if the All Blacks are to be put away, the juggling of the resources is necessary to ensure the boot is not removed from the neck.
The Bok defence improved from the slow adjustment from the first Test, but a tackling rate of below 90 percent can and will be punished by the All Blacks.
While the All Black camp may be unsettled, they’re still the one side that eats missed tackles for breakfast.
Jacques Nienaber’s rush defence has served the Boks well, however, chinks were exposed in Australia last year, with Wales also capitalising on the out/in defence that leaves the Boks short on the outside.
The one thing the All Blacks are never short of is quick outside backs who live for overlaps. Will Jordan and Sevu Reece are problematic on the outside and can’t be afforded any space.
Quality spot-tackling, as we saw how effective was that of Ireland, not only stops attacking momentum, but creates opportunities for turnovers.