CAPE TOWN – After the Springboks’ disappointing loss to the Wallabies last week, fans are expecting the worst against the All Blacks on Saturday.
But despite the fact that the Kiwis still dispatched Argentina 46-24 without a number of key players such as Beauden Barrett, and early injuries to among others Brodie Retallick, there is still hope for the Boks in Wellington.
That is the view of former centre and assistant coach Brendan Venter. Writing in a column for New Zealand website stuff.co.nz on Wednesday, Venter pointed out three areas the South Africans must be strong in to have a chance at the Westpac Stadium.
Venter was the last Bok defence coach who had to get the team ready to hold the Kiwis at bay, and they produced two contrasting displays in 2017 – a 57-0 annihilation in Albany, and the 25-24 loss at Newlands.
He has since been replaced by Jacques Nienaber – the right-hand man of Rassie Erasmus, who took over from Allister Coetzee.
Venter says matching the ABs in the kicking game, holding on to possession and contesting set-pieces is how the Boks can cause an upset on Saturday (9.35am SA time kickoff).
“The All Blacks play for territory and, if you want to beat them, you have to at least match them in the kicking stakes.
“You can’t afford to kick for distance and need to put in contestable kicks, because the men in black are lethal at running the ball from the back,” Venter explained, adding the Boks have too many players still standing around the rucks or on the ground.
“The All Blacks’ counter-attacking and turnover ability is second to none. The Springboks need to keep it tighter than ever before because if you force the pass and the All Blacks pick it up, you are in trouble.
“You have to prepare extremely well to defend the set-phases. Historically, the All Blacks have scored a high percentage of tries from scrums and lineouts.
“If the All Blacks aren’t able to score off counter-attack, turnover possession or set-piece, you have a really good chance of beating them.”
The Bok scrum had some good and bad moments against the Wallabies, with Steven Kitshoff starting strongly at loosehead prop. Kitshoff did more than enough to hold on to the starting berth, although Tendai Mtawarira’s experienced of over 100 Tests could be valuable too.
The powerful Malcolm Marx is likely to replace Bongi Mbonambi at hooker.
Apart from Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, loose forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley are excellent lineout jumpers who can contest the All Black throw-ins.
Venter said that beating the All Blacks on Saturday “should not be regarded as mission impossible”, stating that Erasmus needed to heed the lessons Coetzee’s team did from the Albany disaster that led to the narrow loss at Newlands.
If that happens, “Wellington could prove to be the turning point in his national coaching tenure”.
The closest the Boks have come to winning in New Zealand in recent years was actually in Wellington in 2014, when Heyneke Meyer’s team – led by Jean de Villiers in his 100th Test – came up just short, going down 14-10.