CAPE TOWN - 57-0 ... It’s pretty tough to come back from a result like that. But here’s what I think the Springboks should do at Newlands to rip up the form book and beat the All Blacks.
Perform for the full 80
We all know what happened over in Kiwi land three weeks ago - when the Boks looked promising in the first quarter and then disappeared (in terms of performance) from the field quicker than Craig Joubert did after the Aussies’ 2015 World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland. It’s great to have a solid start but, as the old, somewhat tired saying goes; it’s not how you start, but how you finish. So please Bokke, don’t let your fans part with their 950 rands for nothing. It’s going to be tough to deal with the “met daai geld kon ek braaivleis en dop gekoop het” posts that will probably be more prevalent on Twitter and Facebook than Fijian wings in the All Black backline, should a defeat like that happen again.
Perfect those final touches
One of the most frustrating aspects in the Springboks’ performance against the Aussies last week was their missed opportunities. The Boks looked good at times - they showed proper intent to use the ball creatively and play wide, and the backline players, as well as the forwards, ran a few good lines and took the ball through the hands. Oh yes, and it was great to see a Bok team make use of offloads, even though it didn’t always come off. All of that was very pleasing indeed. But then came the fumbles and missed scoring chances, especially in the second 40. And that would have secured the win. Yes, I think that’s right. They would have won had they rounded off their impressive attacks, not only if Elton Jantjies had slotted the late penalty kick. Also, the All Blacks’ defence will add even more pressure. The Boks must be clinical. Because we know all too well what Beauden Barrett & Co can do on the counter-attack.
Sort out the scrums
I’m not going to delve into the discussion of how heartbreaking it is to watch a traditional strength of the Boks turn into a penalty machine, because that would be premature and unnecessary. After all, it’s not like the set-piece has been a mess this whole season. But seriously now, Ruan Dreyer cannot be penalised against the All Blacks the way he was against the Wallabies, and tighthead is a position that needs some serious assessing. Also, it seems like the Boks want to impress with ball-in-hand, and there’s no better way to start a dangerous attack than producing a solid scrummaging effort. They need to sort out the scrums, and they need to do it quickly - not so they can return to the prehistoric days of dominating play with set-pieces and a forward game, but so that the backline, and forwards, can have a chance to launch their attack.
I’ve written about this before, and in that piece I explained “the magic of quick reaction”. I used the example of how Aaron Smith took a quick tap and got the ball to Rieko Ioane to do damage and score while the Boks were still trying to sort out their defence. But that wasn’t the only example of how quickly the All Blacks react. You saw it at the lineouts, breakdowns, after the tackle, everywhere. The All Blacks went about their business quickly. Needless to say, the Boks need to speed up. There will be no time to organise their defensive line at the pace that certain scrumhalves clear the ball from the base of the ruck. They need to get back up on their feet swiftly after making a tackle. They need to get the ball in and out of the lineout quickly. And so we can go on and on. Quick hands, quick feet and quick minds please Boks.
Prevent a SBW spectacle
I’m still trying to figure out which would be more surprising this weekend - a Bok win over the All Blacks, or Sonny Bill Williams producing the kind of performance that made him such a hit some years ago. Okay, of course a Bok victory would be more unexpected, but given Williams’ form of late, you can’t blame me for making that comparison. Anyway, the Boks should make sure that they deprive SBW’s adoring Cape-based fans of the chance to get excited over his offload-producing mitts, because you never know, Cape Town might just have a galvanising effect on the code-hopper. And the Boks don’t even have to tackle him above the waist to cut down his passing options ... maybe just whisper “another red card for you Sonny” as they go in for the tackle to put him off his game?
More of that lineout variation, please
That was one of my favourite aspects in the Boks’ draw last week - the variation they showed at the lineouts. They got their backs involved, they mixed up “standard” lineouts with short ones, and they showed what a pleasure the set-piece can be to watch. More of that against the All Blacks would be just fine and dandy.
Sort out that defence
Was there anything wrong with the Springboks’ defence against the Wallabies? I mean, seeing that I haven’t come across any rants directed at Brendan Venter yet, one would assume not. Anyway, the Boks’ defence was a terrible sight against the All Blacks, and at times they were found wanting in this department against the Wallabies as well. The Boks’ defensive effort will obviously be a crucial part of the game on Saturday, so it needs to be better.
Work Jerome Garces
I guess rugby fans can’t be blamed if they are of the opinion that the there’s a bigger chance of Cape Town’s dams being full by November than the game being officiated in such a way that no one can cry foul afterwards. You know what I mean about French refs? But maybe the Boks should just pull on one of the All Black players’ hair to see what they can get away with. Darn it, Ardie Savea’s do would have made a good grip. All right, no Bok has to pull a Folau, but I do hope they’ve factored the French official into their game plan.