CAPE TOWN – The Springboks got a lot of things right in their 35-17 victory over the Wallabies at Ellis Park at the weekend.
The win not only ensured a good start to their Rugby Championship campaign, but it should also have done a bit for their confidence ahead of their blockbuster match against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday. Let’s not forget that the fixture is also the last time these two sides will meet before their Rugby World Cup opener in Japan later this year, so see it as a kind of preview, if you will.
World Cup aside, the Boks have made it clear that all their focus is on Saturday’s fixture.
So, here are four of the highlights to copy and paste from their game against the Wallabies, and two factors they might want to delete on Saturday.
The Herschel Jantjies factor
This certainly won’t apply only when the Stormers scrumhalf is on the pitch, but what he did against the Aussies should definitely be an objective again.
Jantjies’ two superb tries were, well, superb, but it’s everything he did in between those dot-downs that was special.
The presence he was thanks to his ability to read and adjust to play was fine, and given the figure the Kiwis have in that No 9 kit, the Boks’ reaction around the fringes is going to be vital. Jantjies’ defence in general was solid, and looking further than defence, the general awareness he showed around the edges and how he adapted to the situation - whether it was a pass or a box kick - is something the Boks can certainly do with come the weekend - from Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach or Jantjies himself, whichever duo gets a run.
Spot the black dot
Elton Jantjies had a top evening when it came to aligning the tee with his target, and while slotting those kicks won’t be as exciting an aspect to anticipate as many other areas, a game can come down to that, and that makes it key.
Not much else needs to be said here.
How good was it seeing the Boks go over for their fifth try after the hooter signalled the end of the game?
It’s not something you would have easily seen in previous years, and if they show the same hunger against the All Blacks, it should be a good one.
Grind on the ground
The way Francois Louw bossed the Australians and slowed their ball down was a pleasing sight.
Whether he’s in the frame or not on Saturday, the Boks will have to guard the breakdown with intent against Steve Hansen’s men. Quick ball is where they flourish, and the Boks will save themselves a lot of trouble if they can manage to spoil their party and prevent those eager hands horizontal from the breakdown from appreciating the Gilbert.
An improved defensive effort to the one the Boks showed in the first half against Australia will be vital.
They missed 26 tackles compared to the Aussies’ 15, but more importantly, they’ll have to be covered out wide to prevent the hosts from working those short passes through the hands and stretching - and hopefully not exploiting - them out wide.
It’s not a major weakness per say, but a flawless performance close to touch will be key given the line-out demons the All Blacks can terrorise you with. It’s worth noting that hooker Bongi Mbonambi produced some fine pin-point throws and that Lood de Jager took a short while to get into the swing of things, but securing those and the contest should be a major focus.