After a 26-10 victory for South Africa over New Zealand in the Rugby Championship opener, here are our top five points from the match in Mbombela.
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Nelspruit provided a wonderful atmosphere and backdrop for the 102nd Test match between South Africa and New Zealand, which saw the hosts convincingly win.
The game went almost exactly according to the script, with the set pieces, defense and aerial dominance proving to be too strong for a toothless and tactically terrible New Zealand.
Simply put, the contrast between the All Black game plan’s mess and the Boks’ organization and efficiency couldn’t be more stark – it was men versus boys.
Malcolm Marx celebrated his 50th Test match with a brilliant and boisterous player display that saw his 54 minutes on the field yield four turnovers and 14 tackles, along with five scrum penalties that he and his teammates earned for their power and technical excellence.
With Lukhanyo Am delivering a performance reminiscent of a fourth quarterback and Jaden Hendrikse responding well to the departure of local boy Faf de Klerk on the first play of the match, South Africa will be delighted with their first Rugby Championship hit and will also take away a lot of learning points of this match as it rebuilds in preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Sam Cane commented after the game that this was ‘a loss of small margins’. If that’s genuinely what he believes after a performance New Zealand were lucky enough to finish second, then you have to wonder if he’s simply dodging criticism or if he’s completely deluded.
Rarely has an All Black side looked so lost in the Testing arena.
In all areas of the set piece, they lost the match. In the collapse they were chosen for fun by Marx and his boats and in the air battle they were completely outmatched, and in both offense and defense they were completely overpowered.
Sure, New Zealand fought like the proud nation that it is, but this was a fight of individual desperation, not cohesive defensive or offensive teamwork. The only advantage they can take away is that their line defense has improved a lot since the third Test against Ireland, and they were able to focus on one system (ball observation) rather than the hybrid mess we saw last month, but the problems of poor torso attachment instead of leg/underbinding at the time of the maul cost them dearly.
To make matters worse, the lack of any form of exit or kicking strategy, especially in their own midfield, saw South Africa own 72% of the turf battle in the match, an absolutely impressive statistic.
This was a brave but disorganized team playing for the coach on Saturday – but based on what we’ve seen, you have to question what the coach is doing for the team that fought valiantly for him.
South African rugby does what it says on the tin. It’s not pretty, it’s not expansive, and it’s a little predictable – however, its orchestration, delivery, and effectiveness are absolutely second to none.
The platform provided by their pack’s brilliance at the set-piece, along with the commitment and timing of their chase, make them a formidable team to play with. Simple things like the ground speed of your line-out, the height your lifters reach, the speed of your center’s running defense, the dominance that Frans Malherbe achieves on the scrummage shot – it all adds up to permeate any defensive fragility. that the opposition may have.
In the first half ruck team, the power of the forward Boks saw them playing at least, sometimes just two defensive players, against four and five All Blacks. No attack can survive beyond the third or fourth ruck when they are losing so many numbers linked to previous meltdowns and with jackals of the quality of Marx, Am and Kwagga Smith in their ranks attacking the lone carrier with such a large number. advantage is as simple as taking candy from a child.
A word too, for winger Kurt-Lee Arendse; His day ended in disaster with an absolute shock from an aerial challenge on Beauden Barrett, which landed fully on his head and neck, an incident that should result in a long suspension in his path. But their collision was purely out of their youthful exuberance and total commitment – qualities that underpinned a really promising display until the red card incident.
Over New Zealand and coach Ian Foster, there is a dark cloud of destruction. This proud rugby nation does not tolerate failures of this nature and it is almost certain that their role is now completely untenable. It’s almost unthinkable to see a team of the caliber of players that possess seem so clueless about how to play single test rugby. No exit strategy, no territorial emphasis, and absolutely no structure in any facet of your game.
On the plus side (and there were a few, despite the general situation), George Bower had a great game around the park, hitting 18 tackles and carrying well despite being second best in the scrum. Ardie Savea and Akira Ioane had their moments, with the latter part of some of the Kiwi’s best moves until he was out of breath. But the defender and midfielder offered absolutely nothing – no control, no intellect and no plan. There’s a serious problem in midfield, with no one taking control of the game or looking to gain momentum and territory, and in the centres, you have two tones of straight but hard-hitting running, neither of which bothered South Africa in the slightest.
Make no mistake – these are not skill issues – they are training and tactical issues and New Zealand must now accept that as leaders Cane and Foster’s races have finally taken place.
It is often said that you can adjust more with a win than with a loss.
When De Klerk left so early for South Africa, they lost a bit of scrum-half variety – the kicks and snipes that are the hallmarks of his rounded game despite Hendrikse’s committed effort. De Klerk is the X-factor man who makes so much of a difference to try out scoring opportunities and he is expected to get back to the green and gold as soon as possible.
In attack, we again saw a very lateral and predictable defense. At no point in the game did the Boks seek to switch and get back in line to attack the centre-back’s inner shoulder – everything was run around the corner, which allowed New Zealand to defend the width of the field. Damian Willemse might be a brilliant defensive full-back (and some of his work on defense in this game was exceptional), but he’s nowhere near the attacking sword that Willie le Roux is, especially given Le Roux’s ability to attack against the grain and to that inner shoulder. Couple this approach with the heavy handling of Allende’s impressive Damian and the room for improvement is pretty obvious.
However, when one side is as dominant as the Boks in other areas, they go into every game knowing their superpowers will be fulfilled. As the Rugby Championship progresses they will be looking to improve their offensive threat, mess with their people and based on their excellent showing in this game it looks like their trajectory to top form is absolutely right.
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The article Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from South Africa vs New Zealand as storm clouds gather over Ian Foster and Sam Cane first appeared on Planetrugby.com.