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WATCH: 5 revealing quotes from the All Blacks’ Sam Whitelock ahead of Springboks clash

Veretan All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock. Picture: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz via Backpagepix

Veretan All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock. Picture: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz via Backpagepix

Published Aug 3, 2022

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Johannesburg - The All Blacks are in South Africa and have started their preparation for the opening Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks in Nelspruit this Saturday in earnest.

On Monday, they presented hardman Sam Whitelock to the media, and here are five interesting observations he made.

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1 "It doesn't matter who is coaching us, it comes down to how we perform on the field.”

Much to the surprise of many and the chagrin of others, head coach Ian Foster survived the recent series loss against Ireland. The expectation seemed to be that he was to be sacked, or demoted. Instead, it was his assistants John Plumtree and Brad Mooar who were sacrificed as atonement to the rugby gods.

Plumtree was duly replaced by Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan, while there was no direct replacement for Mooar. Former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, meanwhile, has taken up a larger role within the management structure.

There might be some truth to Whitelock’s words in that player decisions and actions will play a large part on the field, but those instructions ultimately come from the coaches and at the head of that particular table is Foster.

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It is strange then that Plumtree and Mooar were chopped as it will surely not change the All Blacks' approach. After all, it is Foster that still has the final say regarding gameplan and execution.

We will have to wait and see if the coaching changes indeed alter how the All Blacks play.

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2 “We do know there’s some areas where we need to be better at, and conceding a couple of maul tries (against Ireland) is an obvious one, so that’s a key area.

The All Blacks’ line-out was a major area of concern against Ireland, especially during the deciding third Test.

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In that 32-22 defeat, they lost four of their own throw-ins and affected only one turnover in that set-piece. It gave the Irish an attacking and defensive platform that they used to stunning effect to put mounting pressure on the Kiwis. The Springboks will no doubt do their level best to do the same, and it is quite apparent that Whitlock and Co know it is coming.

3 "The Springboks will definitely play to their strengths, as they always do ..."

We all know what those strength are and what gameplan the Boks, under Jacques Nienaber, will employ: Box-kicks to put territory and possession under pressure; a physical onslaught in the contact area; the push to force an error; playing for scrum-penalties and either kicking for an attacking line-out or points.

It seems a simple approach, but it has a lot of moving parts that must click without resistance to work properly. Key to that, is a remorseless approach that dominates the opposition. As shown in the Wales Test series, if the visitors can match the Boks and get under the skin of their hosts in that department, they can make a fist of it.

The All Blacks, however, were intimidated by the Irish. Nevertheless, they will be desperate to overturn that failing and are expected to throw everything at the Boks, who will do well to weather what will be a tough initial storm at the beginning of each half.

4 “We just need to make sure that we can stop their Plan A and if they change that, we can stop that as well.”

Many will argue that Whitelock is being overly generous here.

One of the criticisms levelled at the Boks recently, is that they tend to get stuck on Plan A. At times there seems to be no secondary gameplay to fall back on, merely variations of their main approach.

Bok assistant coach Deon Davis promised on Monday that the Boks have been hard at work to bring back more variations to their play and that they will be better in their execution on attack.

What we would like to see is the hybrid approach we all appreciated in the 2019 World Cup final where they crushed the hopes of England for 60 minutes and then cut them open with exciting, attacking play.

5 "It is an awesome spot to play. It's one of those spots that's hard to play, but that's why I enjoy it so much."

If you are an All Black supporter, then indeed SA is an awesome place to play.

New Zealand have played 50 times in the country and have won 24 of those, with one draw meaning they have lost only 50% of Tests played here. The record mostly occurred after the game went professional in 1996.

In the last 12 years, since the 2009 cleansweep by the Boks, New Zealand have won 18 of the 23 matches between the nations. Nine of those matches were played in SA and the All Blacks have won seven of them.

@FreemanZAR

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