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Springboks v All Blacks: 5 reasons why the ‘humble’ box-kick will be in the spotlight

Faf de Klerk kicks a high ball during a Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks in 2021. Picture: Darren England/EPA

Faf de Klerk kicks a high ball during a Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks in 2021. Picture: Darren England/EPA

Published Aug 3, 2022

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Johannesburg - The Springboks always get flak for it, while for some reason everyone believes the All Blacks don't ever do it. Yes, we are talking about kicks out of hand, specifically the humble box-kick.

Here, IOL Sport’s Morgan Bolton, looks at five scenarios when, theoretically and not at all that seriously, the box-kick will be employed on Saturday at Mbombela Stadium by the Springboks and All Blacks.

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1 WE SEE YOU, KURT-LEE: Aaron Smith

Smith started all three Tests against Ireland, so in all likelihood he will be the No 9 come Saturday. In our little thought-experiment, it doesn’t really matter, as we expect – at least for the first 20 minutes – the tactic will be the same regardless of who is at scrumhalf: Bomb right wing Kurt-Lee Arendse.

The 26-year-old is no mug when it comes to fielding kicks, but he is inexperienced. Arendse is dangerous on the counter-attack but an early fumble could dent his confidence and pile unwanted pressure onto him for the rest of the match.

2 AAHHH! WHAT SHALL I DO WITH THIS OVOID OBJECT IN MY HAND: Jaden Hendrikse

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Look, Hendrikse was great during the Wales series, but this will be his biggest Test yet. We reckon he will certainly come on in the latter stages of the encounter.

So, there the Boks are … it’s the 78th minute; a few points separate the teams; the Boks are rumbling forward; Hendrikse gets to the breakdown. He looks left. He looks right. The best bet is to keep it tight and maybe eke out a penalty.

Instead, he sees what he thinks is a bit of space and puts a box-kick just behind the All Blacks. It gives a desperate Kiwis back possession. Meanwhile, the rest of us supporters have a nervous breakdown and grunt in anxious exasperation.

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3 MAKAZOLE, THIS ONE'S FOR YOU: Faf de Klerk

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It is a clear tactic from De Klerk and Co that while camped around their own 22, they will more often than not opt for the box-kick tight to the touchline, especially if the ball is slow.

Coach Jacques Nienaber argues it generates go-forward ball and at least a 50/50 chance of getting possession back. The coach likes those odds. And with the towering Makazole Mapimpi on the left wing (you can certainly also insert Damian Willemse here); it has and probably will pay dividends.

4 CLUSTER-BALL:De Klerk

This is arguably the most frustrating box-kick to watch.

The Boks are on the move; powering forward; and they have the opposition scrambling. Instead of slinging it down the line, De Klerk arrives at the scene with fast ball, and punts it into no-man’s land.

A convergence of players meets: Eben Etzebeth is there, as is Lood de Jager, Mapimpi, and Arendse. Malcolm Marx wasn’t involved previously, so he is standing just behind the charging vanguard waiting to snaffle up the tap-back, or plant himself firmly over the ensuing ruck to contest possessions … you get the general idea.

One can argue that it is the riskiest of the box-kicks and if the bounce of the ball favours the All Blacks, they could possibly make the Boks pay. Equally, if the men in Green and Gold get their hands back on the ball, with the entire team moving forward, you’d expect points to follow.

5 AS GOOD AS IT GETS: Jaden Hendrikse

We teased Hendrikse above but make no mistake, the 22-year-old has a nifty little foot on him.

So, in our ideal scenario, it is late in the game. The Boks have just scored – it’s still tight but a sense of victory is at Mbombela. The think-tank of Nienaber and Co decide it’s time to bring on Hendrikse.

The All Blacks restart and it is collected calmly by the Boks, who form a ruck. Up steps Hendrikse, ordering a pod of forwards to form in front of him and without fuss, hoicks the ball into touch just beyond the 50m line.

It’s nothing fancy, it’s nothing exciting, but it is exactly what is required.

@FreemanZAR

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