Cape Town – The math is as simple as can be for the Springboks: Score four tries and beat the All Blacks with a bonus point at Ellis Park tomorrow, and deny them a bonus point. Do that, and Jean de Villiers will lift the Rugby Championship trophy.
Let’s take a look at how the Boks can crack the mighty All Blacks ...
1 Bring Willie le Roux into the game
One of the major differences between the Bok team that scored a historic bonus-point victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane and the one in the last two matches against the All Blacks and Australia was that Le Roux hardly saw the ball.
The one tiny opportunity he got at Newlands last week, he turned it into an unexpected try by diving into the corner and dotting the ball down before being pushed out.
Le Roux is the magic man of this Springbok team, and he must be allowed to wave that wand of his. He must pop into the flyhalf channel more often and an important factor is his teammates must hang around him to give him more options. It’s like with Sonny Bill Williams – they are only as effective as the support runners providing different avenues to explore with an offload or chip into space.
But Le Roux needs to have his hands on the ball!
2 Greater numbers at the breakdowns
This is a vital facet of play on attack and defence for the Boks. One of the key elements of the All Blacks’ attacking play is to get quick ball from the rucks, which catches defences out of line and results in extra space for the back-three of Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea to flourish.
If the Boks can cut down that supply, New Zealand will have to work harder for their possession, allowing the Boks to get into position on defence.
South Africa’s loose trio are also more physical than mobile, so Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw would prefer to be in a tight battle royale around the fringes of the rucks than having to chase down Savea or Dagg on the cover defence on the opposite side of the field.
Remember, the Boks have to stop the All Blacks from getting a bonus point as well to win the title.
While the Bok loose trio and Bismarck du Plessis will try to win turnovers, All Black captain Richie McCaw won’t be alone in slowing down the Bok attack. Andrew Hore is still at hooker, possibly for the last time, and the tough Highlanders No 2 is almost as good as Du Plessis in stealing ball on the ground.
3 Dominate the scrums and lineouts
Tendai Mtawarira was winning his scrum battle with Owen Franks at Eden Park until Bismarck received his first yellow card, and from that point, the Bok scrum was on the back foot with seven men.
Still, they weren’t totally dominated despite losing two big men in Bismarck and Willem Alberts, who had to make way for a specialist hooker in Adriaan Strauss.
And Franks won’t be at Ellis Park due to a groin injury, with Charlie Faumuina at No 3 tomorrow. While Faumuina is a much bigger 130kg compared to Franks at 117kg, they are the same height at 1.85m. That gives Mtawarira an advantage, as he is slightly shorter at 1.83m, which would allow him to get “under” Faumuina in the scrums.
“Beast” would also have had a look at how Argentinian loosehead Marcos Ayerza was on top of Franks in La Plata last week. The Pumas pack had the edge over the All Blacks in the scrum, so there’s no reason why the Boks can’t as well, especially in Mtawarira’s 50th Test.
The lineout will be a tough challenge for the Boks, as Sam Whitelock is the premier contesting lock in world rugby since the retirement of Victor Matfield. The South Africans have relied largely on Eben Etzebeth to win front ball in the lineouts, but if they want to attack from this set-piece, they will need to find ways to mix it up with Juandré Kruger and Duane Vermeulen at the back.
4 Kick penalties into touch
This is not only about Jean de Villiers’s two decisions to opt for the posts last week against Australia at Newlands instead of going for touch. That is a factor, as it didn’t make sense for the Boks to go for three points when they were 17-3 and 20-3 up and chasing a four-try bonus point, having scored two already.
Deadly kicker Morné Steyn has been in very good form for the Boks this year, but he committed two unforgivable mistakes at Newlands – missing touch from penalties. In both situations he would’ve taken the Boks to well inside the Wallabies’ 22 and from there, we know the Boks have an excellent driving maul to set up tries.
Those two missed touch-finders may mean the difference between winning and losing the Rugby Championship, but what Steyn can do at Ellis Park tomorrow is just to kick it out.
5 Jean must break All Black hearts again
It was a memorable night in Hamilton in 2009 when the Boks beat the All Blacks for a third time in a row and for the second year in succession on New Zealand soil. There were those brilliant Francois Steyn penalties, but who broke the All Blacks’ spirit? It was Jean de Villiers with his intercept try.
Morné Steyn’s conversion took the score to 29-12, and although the All Blacks came close in the end, the Boks took it 32-29. A Jean de Villiers intercept could win another Tri-Nations/ Rugby Championship title!