With the Rugby Championship starting this weekend, all eyes are on Mbombela, where world champions South Africa welcome New Zealand in one of the sport’s oldest rivalries.
As New Zealand look to bounce back from a crushing defeat at home to Ireland and South Africa, they look to hone their attack and build their world-class set-pieces after a tight run against Wales, England’s former eight. and Worcester Warriors coach Nick Easter joins Planet Rugby’s James While to see what can happen on Saturday.
“This is without a doubt the fiercest rivalry in rugby,” commented Easter.
“Three World Cups each, absolute dominance of the last four tournaments and a clash between the All Blacks’ intuition and the Springboks’ power make this the absolute pinnacle of Test rugby and I’m sure the game will not disappoint.
“However, New Zealand enter the match with a backdrop of turmoil among its leadership, struggling for cohesion and identity on the pitch and suffering the sheer humiliation of being beaten by Ireland at home in a series for the first time in history.
“While the Boks look vulnerable against a very committed Welsh side, their ability to just rely on their set pieces and break and clear their way to wins is second to none, and while they are unhappy with some aspects of these performances, they have no doubts about which ones. are their superpowers, but they also understand what their jobs are,” he noted.
“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this is one of the poorer sides of the All Black of the professional era. They are fighting from set pieces, confused on defense and uncoordinated in handling, things you just don’t expect from New Zealand teams. Virtually all of his attempts at the July testing came from single runners: opportunistic runs, like Will Jordan’s 70-meter effort, or Ardie Savea’s absolutely brilliant individual work in the close exchanges. What we haven’t seen is cohesion, technical solidity or organization, which is unusual.
“At the heart of their problems is a defense that is, at best, confused, at worst, utterly disorganized. They are falling between the two banks of man-watching or ball-watching defensive systems and as a result end up doing neither system well and are becoming easy to separate. The modern ethos is a ball-watching framework, referencing the ball as the key point of defence, using two-man collisions to stop and attempt a return. There is an old saying that ‘the ball never lies’ and most testing teams focus on that rather than any way of marking numerical positions.
“On set-pieces, their scrum comes in handy, but Ireland split them up in the line-out, using five standard test jumpers to put pressure on the three New Zealand specialists. At maul time they struggled and again Ireland used that to their great advantage in the series for several scoring opportunities.
“However, with Jason Ryan parachuted as forward coach, I hope to see a big step forward in this last area. Under him, the Crusaders haven’t conceded a maul try in seven seasons and expect to see quicker hits from fans, a focal point of movement and a better formation of defensive effort.
“On offense, the depth at which the All Blacks are trying to play prepares them to fight the best running defenses and that’s exactly what happened in July. Running from positions too deep behind the win line simply plays into the hands of good defenders and the amount of turnover or winning yards they conceded was bordering on criminal – but they just never responded to the speed of Irish defenses playing in nines or tens and be prepared to challenge the faces of midfield blitz players.
“For a country of huge rugby IQ, the hole they’ve gotten themselves into is quite remarkable, but the problems are so obvious that good training and time together can solve them.”
“Springboks have a completely different challenge. History tells us that winning back-to-back World Cups is an enormous task and has only been achieved once, where an average 2011 All Blacks team became a full-fledged, brilliant team four years later, as they evolved their rugby style to near heights. unprecedented within the game,” Easter said ahead of the Rugby Championship match.
“You cannot stand still at this level and there is a danger that South Africa is doing that. Of course, we know they have the best set pieces and are the most physical side in the world, but with greater threat in attack and smoother handling in midfield, I believe they are capable of going up another level entirely.
“There are some issues that need serious attention; first, Handre Pollard needs to take the ball to the line and attack the opposing defense faces. Using his physicality to hold and entice two men to create holes for each other would be a revelation – and stopping the big Boks in the scramble defense is a very difficult task.
“Secondly, for all the solidity of Damian de Allende, he really struggles with passes and runs when the ball comes from the left side of the field with him attacking from the right side. His left-to-right pass is poor, along with the fact that he also tends to swerve, while running the other way, he is much more direct and much more comfortable when passing with his right hand. With players of the caliber of Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi out of it, a quicker serve or straight run will take a lot out of the tight defense and allow the Springboks to play a more appealing style and, more importantly, start scoring bigger shots, something that will be essential against France and Ireland, who score a lot of goals”, concluded Easter.
Face to face
“With the game probably close on the scoreboard, although I expect South Africa to dominate, the head-to-head matches are very interesting,” said the former England striker.
“The two I like are the central clash between David Havili and De Allende – two crucial cogs in their team’s wheel and two men under a lot of pressure to ignite the race threats out of them. Their battle is one of power, but both men have this unloading ability that can rip through a defense and whoever comes out on top will go a long way to winning the match for your side.
“In midfield, two masters of their art see Aaron Smith take on Faf de Klerk. Aaron hasn’t been at his best recently, but his service is unrivaled in rugby and he still has the passing brilliance to destroy any defense – as evidenced by his three-man lack on the narrow side against Ireland. Faf is a pain in the ass and one thing he does brilliantly is press connectivity at the base between eight and nine. Once again, if Smith can break free of the handcuffs Faf will attempt to impose, we could see a turnaround due to the All Blacks’ ability to score attempts in one-out situations.
“Looking at the result, Springboks like to be underdogs. They like to have their backs against walls and punch out – that’s exactly what brings out the best of their mentality and pure bloody mind. However, branded as favorites, they sometimes come unstuck, as witnessed last season when they lost twice against the Wallabies. New Zealand need to play for both the manager and the captain; I expect to see an improvement in attacking play under Ryan, but given that the Boks are the best team in the world by a score margin, I expect a close, dogged battle with South Africa to win with a score around from 18-16.”
SEE MORE INFORMATION: Rugby Championship Preview: Springboks will prove too strong for All Blacks under pressure
The Expert Witness: Nick Easter article believes New Zealand faces a huge challenge to rebuild and predicts a narrow victory for South Africa in Nelspruit appeared first on Planetrugby.com.