JON CARDINELLI looks at where the Springboks fired and failed at the 2015 World Cup.
Handré Pollard went into this tournament with a point to prove with his goal-kicking. The Bok flyhalf converted 32 of his 42 attempts over the seven-game campaign for a success rate of 76%. He goaled five from eight against Wales, and was in flawless goal-kicking form (five from five) against New Zealand. Pollard finished the tournament with the most penalty goals (23) and the second most points (93).
LEVEL WITH LOMU
Bryan Habana could be listed under both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories. The veteran winger scored a hat-trick against the USA, and five tries overall during the pool stage. It was enough to draw level with Jonah Lomu’s record for the most tries in World Cup history (15), and with David Campese’s record for the most tier-one Test tries (64). And yet Habana will regret the other chances he wasted in that game against the USA, and in the third-place play-off against Argentina. Habana was so close to surpassing Lomu and Campese and claiming those records for himself.
Flanker Francois Louw (13) was second only to Australia’s David Pocock (17) for turnovers won at the breakdown. Louw and Lood de Jager were the joint top-tacklers for the tournament (77), while Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger (both 75) weren’t far behind.
The Boks' under-25 contingent included Pollard, prop Frans Malherbe, De Jager and Etzebeth, and centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel. These players were backed to start in the Boks' quarter-final and semi-final and, fitness permitting, will be available to them for at least two more global tournaments.
FAILURE TO FINISH
Schalk Burger crossed the gainline more than any other player (38 times). Damian de Allende beat 24 defenders and Pollard 18 over the course of the tournament. And yet the Boks often failed to keep the movement alive after the initial break. The decision-making and finishing was, for the most part, poor.
NOT KICKING ON
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer lamented his side’s tactical kicking and aerial skills following the semi-final defeat to New Zealand. The stats indicate that Pollard kicked more than any other player at this tournament (79 times) and that Le Roux boasted similar numbers (63). However, what the stats won’t show is how often the Boks kicked when it may have been smarter to keep ball in hand. The quality of many of those kicks left a lot to be desired.
The Boks put themselves under pressure through poor game management. Their defence was excellent for most of the tournament, and no team made more tackles. However, the Boks were also ranked fifth for missed tackles. While their desire and physicality were never in question, the Boks spent too much time defending in their own half of the field. The Boks made a whopping 131 tackles against the All Blacks, but missed 20. Those numbers show how the All Blacks succeeded in keeping the ball and pressuring the Bok defence until it eventually cracked.
LACKING A LINEOUT EDGE
The Bok lineout was in top form against Samoa, but battled to dominate the set piece of New Zealand. De Jager won the most lineouts over the course of the competition, but could not outplay Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read in their semi-final. Read stole the most lineouts in the tournament (six) while Australia’s Dean Mumm was second (four).
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