Ahead of the final Test of the year, CRAIG LEWIS looks at some of the Boks’ important plays that saw them clinically close out the game against Scotland last Saturday.
In the Boks’ tour opener against England at Twickenham, the visitors failed to demonstrate the big-match temperament to finish off an opponent that they had dominated in most key facets of play.
It was a result that particularly frustrated the Springboks, but they then displayed impressive character the week after to snatch a victory over France with an 85th-minute try.
Last Saturday, the Boks came up against a gutsy Scotland side, with South Africa enjoying just a three-point lead when Willie le Roux was controversially yellow-carded in the 46th-minute, and the resultant penalty saw the scores drawn level.
Over the next half an hour, the Springboks displayed impressive game management and composure to not only see out the 10-minute one-man disadvantage without any damage, but also clinch an important 26-20 win.
In the first example below, it’s worth noting a period of superb phase play from the Boks soon after Le Roux is sent to the sin bin. Through some strong carries, the Springboks will eventually frustrate Scotland into conceding a penalty for not releasing just before taking play into a 13th phase.
After Handré Pollard successfully knocks over the penalty, the next clip shows him putting up a superbly-weighted contestable kick for S’bu Nkosi to chase. The Bok winger loses the ball forward in this instance, but a few more minutes tick by as subsequent scrums are set.
At this point, the Boks have successfully survived almost all of the time Le Roux is off the field, until Scotland finally make a superb break from the tryline through Huw Jones.
Yet, in the footage below, it’s worth noting Damian de Allende’s potentially try-saving intervention, as he not only just manages to bring Jones to ground, but also buys some time by immediately getting to his feet to compete for possession.
As we come to the final 15 minutes, the Boks win a couple of key turnovers at the breakdown. In the first example below, Duane Vermeulen is at his best as he latches on to the ball to win a penalty.
The clip below again demonstrates the pressure the Boks are building through powerful defence. In the first portion of the footage, Francois Louw and Vermeulen drive the ball carrier backwards.
Although possession is recycled, Bongi Mbonambi is next to complete a textbook tackle, while Thomas du Toit this time settles into a position of strength over the ball to win another penalty.
In the final example below, Scotland have set up a lineout in the 22 and look to launch a maul in search of a match-winning try. Earlier on, the Boks had already managed to successfully sack one maul, and in this example in the 79th minute they defend the drive to perfection.
With superb body position, the forwards pile in to push the Scotland maul backwards, before legally chopping it to ground to win the scrum put-in. From there, the Boks will close out the game through a few more accurate carries to wind down the clock.
It’s such composure under pressure that will certainly give the Boks confidence heading into the final Test of the year against Wales this Saturday. As Pollard mentioned after the win over Scotland: ‘It was good to see the guys fighting for each other on the pitch. I think that gave us the edge in those last few minutes.’
Photo: MB Media/Getty Images