Springbok defence coach Jacques Nienaber has highlighted the threat of the new All Blacks attacking system ahead of the showdown in Yokohama on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
Are the All Blacks holding something back? While they haven’t been at their best in 2019 – as recent results confirm – they may well be keeping something in reserve for the tournament that matters most in Japan.
Duane Vermeulen provided a diplomatic answer to the question put to him on Wednesday.
‘It’s the World Cup,’ the veteran No 8 said. ‘It’s the first game of the tournament for both teams. They might bring something new to the table. We might try something different, too.’
Nienaber, however, was adamant that the All Blacks will present a different threat when the two southern-hemisphere heavyweights clash in Yokohama on Saturday.
‘Without a doubt,’ he said. ‘New Zealand have always got an innovative play in the bank. As a defence coach, I always look forward to what they’re going to do next.’
The Bok defence coach went on to explain how the All Blacks have been experimenting with a new attacking shape since the 2018 season. It’s only in recent matches, however, where they’ve started to reap the rewards of a slightly different approach.
‘In the past, and here I’m talking as far back as 2010, the attack didn’t have the discipline to keep the ball for 40 phases or more. The forwards didn’t have the skill set.
‘Now that front-row forwards can pass, sidestep, chip kick and the rest, the defence is under a lot more pressure,’ Nienaber said.
‘I first saw that new shape used consistently when the All Blacks played against Ireland last year. Ireland have got Andy Farrell as their defence coach and they use a fairly hard press.
‘When I saw the All Blacks using that shape, I wasn’t sure whether it was intentional or not. I said to Rassie that it may be something that they are working towards.
‘When we played against them in Wellington this year, they used it a lot more. The difference between that game against us and the one against Ireland was the improvement they had made within that system.’
Nienaber referred to the 1-3-3-1 attacking shape that’s been used by the All Blacks and other top teams over the past few years. The new shape of 1-2-3-2, however, is aimed at harnessing the outstanding mobility and handling skills of the All Blacks forwards.
‘They’re steadily improving in that system. They’re still trying to find out where their skill sets fit into this new attacking style.
‘I think that they’re really beginning to understand the can of worms they’re opening.’
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images