PRETORIA – It is an adage popularly used in football but the notion of “attack is the best form of defence” applies equally to the brutal and equally satisfying sport of rugby.
And there couldn’t be a better time than the now for it to be the Springboks’ creed this week as they face their old foe the All Blacks at Loftus on Saturday (5.05pm kick-off).
While many will want the Boks to stick to their winning ploy of tackling the life out of the All Blacks in a similar manner in which they did to engineer that memorable win in Wellington, the truth of the matter is that it won’t be enough this time around to see them through.
Yes, the Boks must defend with all of their might and heart and replicate, if not better, the monumental statistics of Wellington but they will need to back it up with a five-star performance with ball in hand.
Nobody can take anything away from the courage and character the Boks showed, particularly in the dying moments and with their tryline under siege in Wellington, however the All Blacks still managed to breach their line six times.
And so it will be important the Boks add to their arsenal by sharpening up on their attack and making sure that they don’t only thwart the All Blacks’ lethal attack but also score more tries than them as well.
The Boks have shown some creativity with ball in hand under Rassie Erasmus and have scored some spectacular tries more so in the series win against England.
But what remains a concern for Erasmus’ men is their inability to finish off the many opportunities they have created in the Rugby Championship and this was glaringly prevalent in last weekend’s win against the Wallabies which should have been by a bigger margin.
Key to the Boks scoring tries will be building on that creativity, and the players being handed the freedom and licence to run that has the world in awe when the All Blacks have ball in hand.
With devastating speed, anticipation and a natural flair for the game out wide in Aphiwe Dyantyi and Cheslin Kolbe, the Boks’ inside backs should be creating and finding more space and time for the duo to do their thing.
At the same time, the forwards especially the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth and even props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff would be crucial in creating that space by being deployed as dummy runners and additional hands in the backline in the same way the All Blacks have used their forwards to draw the attention of defenders.
Add to this the barnstorming runs out wide of Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe and the Boks will find acres of space to unlock even the steely defence of the All Blacks.
In the same way that defence requires every member of the team to wear their heart on their sleeve, so too does attack.
Gone are the days when it was up to just the backs to use the grey matter between their ears, the engineering and scoring of tries requires all hands on deck from the slow and heavier troops to the fast and trimmer men with double figures on their backs.
The coming together of both defence and attack will make the Boks unbeatable and make wins against the All Blacks a norm instead of the rarity they have become.