JOHANNESBURG - The “learnings” from the Wellington defeat have been taken on board and will serve the All Blacks well this weekend, according to veteran centre Ryan Crotty.
Among the things the New Zealanders would have perhaps been surprised by from the Springboks in their now famous 36-34 win include the fact Rassie Erasmus’ team were able to go the distance and pull off hundreds of tackles to help them win the game, the only department they dominated over the course of the 80 minutes.
That incredible defence – which saw the Boks making 235 tackles – has impressed many observers, including All Blacks boss Steve Hansen and former Bok coach Jake White. And this week, ahead of Saturday’s final Rugby Championship Test of the year at Loftus in Pretoria, Crotty spoke about the Boks’ new “rush” defence and how his team will try to beat it.
“Their defence system has definitely changed (this year),” said Crotty in the build-up to Saturday’s Test. “The Boks have now got more line speed, but we took those learnings from our match in Wellington, into the Argentina game last weekend. We also watched the Boks closely against Australia last weekend to get more clarity (on their defence).
“But with that system there are always opportunities to exploit things,” added the centre. And, Crotty would be right. England scored a number of tries against the Boks in June after finding space out wide, while the All Blacks themselves scored six tries in that defeat in Wellington.
With one round of matches to go in the competition, the All Blacks are still the top side when it comes to defence, having let in only 13 tries in five matches (five of those scored by the Boks), and they’re followed by South Africa, who’ve conceded 17. Australia have let in 18 tries and Argentina 23. Besides learning about the Boks’ new defensive system, the All Blacks, said Crotty, would generally be more “smart” this week.
“South Africa are always very physical and we’re going to have to match that this weekend, but we’re also going to have to be smart in how we play ... so it’s a combination of us being switched on physically and mentally," Crotty said.
“The reality is we let South Africa back into the game (in Wellington). We felt good being 14 points up, but we gifted them two tries. That hurt, not getting the result. We believed we’d get the job done, but we didn’t execute well enough down the stretch. We also have to be smart in our preparation this week, to ensure the tank is full come matchday and the end of the week.”