A repeat of the landmark performance and result at the Suncorp Stadium five years ago will hinge on the Springboks’ showing at the breakdown, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Boks made history when they beat the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium for the first time in 2013. The tourists went into that clash with a big pack and a backline boasting the full range of skills.
The Boks produced a balanced performance to score four tries and concede none. In the wake of that famous 38-12 victory, the media in South Africa, Australia and even New Zealand wondered if the Boks were on the verge of claiming a rare win against the All Blacks at Eden Park.
I chatted to the Bok coaches after the game at Suncorp Stadium and in the lead-up to the next Test in Auckland. Breakdown consultant Richie Gray commended the players for their body height and aggression at the tackle point. That effort set the platform for a dominant attacking showing.
Forwards coach Johann van Graan applauded the pack’s collective performance. Loose forwards Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen were unstoppable on that heady night in Brisbane. Bismarck du Plessis was the star of the breakdown show, and Van Graan went as far to say that the steal made by the hooker in the first minute set the tone for the rest of the game.
It could be said that the performance in Brisbane set the tone for the rest of the 2013 season. The following game in Auckland was marred by referee Romain Poite’s erroneous decision to red card Du Plessis. That Test and the subsequent clash against the All Blacks in Johannesburg aside, the Boks were physically dominant in later matches, and went on to claim wins against Australia, Wales, Scotland and France.
The Boks weren’t at their best in the match that preceded the Brisbane triumph, though. On that occasion, Argentina outmuscled and outfoxed South Africa at the rucks and collisions. It was left to Morné Steyn to kick the Boks to a narrow win in Mendoza.
By the time the Boks kitted up for the game against the Wallabies, however, they had tweaked their starting side, their breakdown approach, and their mindset.
It’s something to think about as the Boks build towards another Test in Brisbane. It’s been five years since the Boks won at Suncorp Stadium, and indeed five years since they last won in Australia.
Rassie Erasmus won’t concern himself with record scorelines or bonus points this week. A copy and paste of the 2013 forward performance and result will be enough.
The Boks made 91% of their tackles in the 2013 game. They kicked 29 times. There wasn’t a reporter or fan at home or abroad, however, who accused the team of being too conservative after they stormed to a bonus-point victory.
Erasmus says the team is heading into the next fixture with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. The team announcement on Thursday, and particularly the makeup of the back row, will reveal just how desperate the Boks are to tick this box.
Malcolm Marx has been compared to Du Plessis as a ball-carrier and turnover specialist. Barring injury, he will start at hooker and aid the Boks’ effort at the collisions and breakdowns.
Vermeulen is unlikely to return to the Bok set-up until November, and so Erasmus may need to take risks in terms of shuffling his pack and backing rookies like Marco van Staden to start. We may well see a new-look back row fronting the Wallabies on Saturday.
Pieter-Steph du Toit has to be added to a combination that can get the team over the gainline and win the ball on the ground. It wouldn’t surprise to see Warren Whiteley, who is less suited to a war in the trenches, omitted from the starting lineup.
The Boks will need to channel the spirit of 2013 in order to come out of the contest with a victory. Another limp and inaccurate performance at the breakdown will lead to another loss, and see the Boks heading to New Zealand without any confidence or momentum.
Photo: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images