Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga says the All Blacks desperately need to outwit the Springboks on attack when the teams renew hostilities at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Boks thumped the All Blacks 26-10 in Mbombela in a one-sided Rugby Championship opener where South Africa dominated New Zealand on defence with a number of physical hits.
The visitors didn’t help themselves with a clueless tactical performance as they played into the Boks’ hands by desperately trying to circumvent the rush defence and made an unusually high number of avoidable errors.
“It’s tough, there’s a method to their madness, with that high linespeed pressure and the things we spoke about to combat that we didn’t do well at all. It’s a bit of an uppercut,” said Mo’unga, who is tipped to replace the injured Beauden Barrett in the starting XV on Saturday.
“[To combat it] you need a bit of depth, width, variation in your attack, kicking, passing – all types of things.
“It just confirmed how good the SA side is, how they’re able to build so much pressure by the way they put teams in a cycle that’s hard to get out of.
“They are able to build numerous and consecutive positive cycles of play that put teams in hard situations, and it’s not just big moments that are needed to change that.”
He added: “We’ve talked about ways to combat that [and] I wouldn’t say it’s mental; you don’t have to be in the right frame of mind to catch a ball, or complete your job or catch a ball – it’s just skill.
“It’s simple skill execution that comes down to one player, and if we can start doing that we can start putting them in a cycle and start building our own pressure that South Africa do so well.”
The All Blacks defeat in the first Test was their fifth loss in six games and has ramped up calls back home for head coach Ian Foster, as well as captain Sam Cane, to be axed, and Mo’unga understands the frustration.
He said: “A team that they support that usually gets results is not getting results at the moment and it’s fair for the fans to care about the team and results.
“[But] we have a role to play and a job to do and hearing that isn’t going to help us at this moment; completing a job will help us win games here.
“What I will say is we’re so close and I know close is a cliche because close isn’t good enough at the moment, but we’re going to build on the missed opportunities from last week.
“I’m keen, I’m excited and that wouldn’t change if I’m on the bench or not even in the 23 – I’m ready.”
Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA