John Robbie.

The real stuff starts now, doesn’t it?

Yes, we know that Argentina can be difficult, especially when they are at home, but let’s be honest, we should beat them. And we did.

The set-piece was good, as was the attitude of the side, but our defence is still of major concern as we move up in terms of opposition.

Remember our World Cup-winning sides of 1995 and 2007? When the A team played, you always felt secure when the opposition had the ball, regardless of who it was.

Okay, Jonah Lomu was different but, even with him against us, a plan was made and remember, he never scored against the Boks.

Now, even Argentina profited, at times, from our mistakes. We need to cut them out and ruthlessly improve our defence.

Often it comes down to a decision or even a single communication in rugby defence.

The forwards, mostly, look after themselves with the big boys acting as pillars and never buying a dummy or missing a tackle close in.

Remember Pieter-Steph du Toit against England? Twice. Close in, that was unacceptable, and hopefully the lesson has been learnt there.

After that, it is organising a corner flagger and of course having the fitness to defend multiple times in the same passage of play.

Fitness leads to mental alertness and that, in defence is as important as physical effort and bravery.

Out wide, it is different. Imagine five quick phases have occurred and we have gone backwards, tackling each time, but not turning over possession. The lungs are burning, and the opposition has thinned the defensive herd.

The sixth time they have created some space and the ball is spun from their nine. This is when a Minister of Defence is needed.

There are some backline players who have the gift of reading defensive play. The best ever, in my time, was Michael du Plessis.

He led the line in defensive line speed and also in communicating the drift that was employed to force the opposition to crab laterally rather than run straight.

The importance of this is that, then, three can defend against four, four against five and so on. The element of drift negates an overlap as long as all players act in unison and this is where the Minister comes in.

He, or she, is the conductor and the line must obey, instantly. Get it wrong, and a hole appears. Get it right and your defence is tight.

John Robbie hopes that Pieter-Steph du Toit has learnt lessons from his defensive mistakes in the past. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Is this leadership something that can be learned or is it a gift? I do not know, but I suspect it is the latter. Ministers of Defence are born and not made.

Do we have such a player? That is for the coaches and leaders to decide but it is absolutely vital to have one if we are to succeed. Usually this maestro plays in midfield, for obvious reasons.

From there, the attacking threat can be recognised early and a plan, instantly, made and communicated.

Both our centres have huge potential in attack, but do they have that priceless, organisational ability in defence? If not, one must be replaced. It is as simple and brutal as that.

Look at Australia? In that first half in the first Test against the All Blacks, they were hopeless in defence. Then they brought on Tevita Kuridrani for Samu Kerevi and it all changed. The holes were plugged and it was a different game.

It continued last week and, watching, you could pick up the defensive confidence of the Wallabies.

Kuridrani is their Minister and he is an effective one. Kurtley Beale, free from this tactical role, can then do his job in defence, but also concentrate on attack and boy, did he look good. Israel Folau also.

By the way, that game in Dunedin was one of the greatest Tests of the modern era and, possibly, of all time. Bar none. It had drama, spectacle, excitement and went down to the wire.

Mention must be made of ref Nigel Owens as well. His gift is that he is strict but always sympathetic to the players as well. Just count the number of classics in which he is involved.

That he has also, bravely, broken stereotypes regarding his sexuality is also laudable but, make no mistake, he ranks as one of the greatest rugby refs of all time.

The Boks are, by their own admission, ticking boxes. We have discussed this before and the aim is not just to win matches, but to win the next World Cup. 

Finding that backline Minister of Defence might just be the most important box to be ticked of all. Today will give us a clue. Pencils, sharpened, should be poised.

 

Saturday Star