CRAIG LEWIS looks at some of the Springboks’ superb defensive reads that will be a cause for encouragement ahead of the Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
There is no doubt that the foundation of Boks’ famous win over the All Blacks in Wellington was based on a savage defensive performance. With the All Blacks enjoying 75% of possession, the Boks were forced to make as many as 235 tackles.
It was an immense effort on defence, with coach Rassie Erasmus admitting that it had been highly encouraging to see the team increasingly coming to grips with the system that is being put in place.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth, which will be followed by a rematch against the All Blacks at Loftus, it’s worth taking a closer look at the Boks’ accuracy on defence that they will be aiming to build on.
In the video clip below, we see a fine example of the Boks coming up on defence in a flat, fast and aggressive line. With Ryan Crotty receiving the pass at first receiver, he has virtually no time on the ball before he is monstered backwards in a double hit from Steven Kitshoff and Siya Kolisi.
The effectiveness of this double hit approach is seen again in the next clip below. Here you can see how the All Blacks look to use a common tip-on tactic among their forwards, which is aimed at generating momentum by shifting the contact area.
Instead, we see Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe this time powering their opponent behind the gainline. It was this sort of brutal defence that was a regular feature in the Springboks’ Wellington win, and which left the All Blacks looking rather rattled.
Besides the impressive teamwork on defence from the Boks, there were also some impressive individual reads that proved critical in the context of the clash. A closer look at the footage illustrates how the diminutive scrumhalf was an unlikely, but highly effective contributor on defence.
In the clip below, the All Blacks have a three-on-two situation and space to exploit out wide. However, here we see De Klerk make an important decision on defence as he recognises the danger and uses his pace to wrap up flanker Liam Squire in a crucial ball-and-all tackle. Jesse Kriel also does a good job as he looks to cut in, before attacking the ball on the ground.
De Klerk was omnipresent on defence throughout the game. In the next clip, the scrumhalf again makes a beautiful read to identify where the ball is heading and rush up on towering fullback Jordie Barrett, who he stops in his tracks with another highly effective tackle.
Below, there is one final example of De Klerk proving to be an absolute nuisance. As we’ve seen him do quite regularly this season, De Klerk’s timing is spot on as he shoots through to make a tackle on Aaron Smith just as the ball comes out of the ruck.
In this case, he forces the knock-on just as the All Blacks were looking to launch another attack.
In the final videos below, the All Blacks have two wonderful opportunities to win the game well after the regulation 80 minutes. In the first clip, New Zealand have an attacking 5m scrum and TJ Perenara launches play to the left, where the hosts actually have a numbers advantage with Rieko Ioane ranging out wide.
The All Blacks are normally so lethal from this sort of attacking platform, but again we see the influence of the Boks’ defensive rush and the presence of Le Roux hanging out wide looking to cut out the passing option.
New Zealand look to go a rather uncharacteristically direct route, but ball carrier Crotty is wrapped up in a powerful tackle from Kriel and Cheslin Kolbe, while Francois Louw also helps repel the centre backwards.
Finally, we come to the magical moment from Aphiwe Dyantyi with the final play of the game. With the All Blacks having spotted an overlap, they turn down a prime position for a drop goal, and send the ball out to Damian McKenzie.
In previous Test matches, Dyantyi has occasionally been exposed when shooting out of line, but this time the winger makes the perfect read as he recognises the do-or-die danger, with McKenzie and Ben Smith in space out wide.
Dyantyi shoots out of line and makes a crucial intervention as he hits McKenzie with a trailing hand and forces him to lose control of possession.
It’s this combination of individual brilliance and defensive brutality that should give the Boks a massive boost of confidence in their defence system as they now come up against the Wallabies and All Blacks at home.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images