CAPE TOWN - The Springboks’ courageous 24-25 performance against the All Blacks in a tight game revealed a lot of positives they can draw confidence from. Here are five suggestions for the Boks to stay on their upward curve.
Keep ball in hand
The Springboks’ desire to keep ball in hand has been made well known by coach Allister Coetzee, and we’ve also seen it on the field, especially in their 27-27 draw with the Wallabies. And at Newlands at the weekend, the Boks alternated that approach with a tighter one. But it’s when the Boks kept ball in hand that they managed to get the points which matter, while they also looked after the ball better when taking it through the hands than they did in Albany and in Bloemfontein. They are far from the finished product in this regard, but they are showing improvement and intent, which is a good-enough start.
Make sure Malcolm Marx stays fit
What more can be said about the hooker’s performance at Newlands? He produced a monster outing at the breakdowns, winning no fewer than four turnovers, he passed his lineout test, and he was massive on defence as he made 15 tackles. But when it came to open play, there was no stopping him either. The 23-year-old gained big metres when he carried the ball, and he was also rewarded with a try for all his efforts. Marx hasn’t disappointed in loose play much since he made his Springbok debut, and it’s his technical work at the lineouts that has been his biggest, or only, weakness. But there was none of that on Saturday - he had a complete game. And I think it’s safe to say the Boks need the Lions front-rower to be available whenever they need him, so I hope injury doesn’t hit this firing hooker.
More solid lineouts and variation
The Bok lineout functioned really well against the All Blacks, I don’t think I need to go into detail about what we had to witness at the set-piece in Albany. They lost only one lineout in Cape Town, but unfortunately it turned out to be costly as the All Blacks scored a try from the turnover. But still, things looked good when the teams lined up, and the Bok jumpers also contested well. They kept it pretty straightforward, though, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it would also be good to see them make use of the kind of variation they showed against the Aussies every now and the unpredictability can never be a negative when it comes to competition.
More of Steven Kitshoff
In his first start for the Springboks in the absence of the experienced Tendai Mtawarira, Kitshoff did not disappoint. Not at all. He did his thing at scrum time and he was also one of the hardest-working Boks on the pitch (but that has become expected). This season, the loosehead has made big impacts off the bench, both at the scrums and in open play. And in his run-on stint, everything that has made him such a presence this year was there again. All of it. A few more starts for him, please?
Appreciate the ball
This was one of the Springboks’ main focuses in the build-up, according to Coetzee. And they did show more respect for the ball against the New Zealanders, in terms of handling. But Ross Cronje’s poorly executed box kicks could have resulted in something ugly. And when he was asked about the tactic at the post-match press conference and the crowd’s unhappiness about the recurring method, Coetzee said the All Blacks also make use of it, yet “no one boos them when they do”. But the All Blacks execute it well - they put in a box kick, they chase it, they retrieve it. And too many times on Saturday we saw one of Cronje’s box kicks landing in Kiwi hands. The Springboks have done really well to erase their handling errors, but now they need to work on this aspect as well, if it’s something they want to make use of more.