The Springboks’ chances of beating the Wallabies and challenging the All Blacks will depend on an improved defensive effort, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Boks head into the next match against the Wallabies on the back of a record loss to Argentina in Mendoza. South Africa’s defence was particularly poor in that fixture, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Rassie Erasmus making changes this week with a more physical and accurate defensive performance in mind.
New Zealand are at the top of the World Rugby rankings, while the Wallabies are fifth, the Boks seventh, and the Pumas ninth. If the Boks are struggling to repel the worst-ranked team in the Rugby Championship, what chance will they have defending against the better teams on Australasian soil?
Indeed, the tournament stats after two rounds need to be viewed in perspective. The Wallabies are coming off two games against the All Blacks, while the Boks have completed a double-header against Argentina. That the Boks are ranked third for tackle efficiency at this stage (83%) is cause for concern.
Any coach will tell you that defensive systems take time to implement. While it’s clear that changes are needed in the back row and midfield ahead of the games in Brisbane and Wellington, Erasmus has to be wary of making too many alterations, as a complete lack of synergy will hamper the defensive cause.
There’s been talk of benching or even resting Malcolm Marx for the clash in Brisbane. It’s madness when one considers the strength of the Wallabies at the breakdown, and the role Marx has played for the Boks and Lions in recent times.
While the Boks’ one-on-one tackling and defensive organisation has left a lot to be desired, they have still managed to equal the All Blacks’ effort for most turnovers. They’re going to need Marx as well as a specialist openside flank in the mix this Saturday to win those crucial ruck penalties or create counter-attacking chances.
It’s yet another area of the game in which the Boks have to show an improvement. Their work under the high ball has been ordinary in recent weeks. Another inaccurate showing will compromise the defence once more.
If the Boks fail to repel the Wallabies, what chance will they have of keeping the All Blacks at bay the following week? New Zealand don’t get enough credit for their defence and kicking game. Their attacking stats at this stage, after two games against the second-best ranked side in the tournament, are frightening.
The All Blacks rank first in every attacking category bar offloads. Over the first two rounds, they averaged 223 more metres, averaged seven more clean breaks, and scored 25 more points than the next best side in each category.
Their defence is special, too, when you see that they rank first for tackle efficiency and turnovers won. They have missed the fewest tackles to date.
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