Former assistant coach Brendan Venter says the Boks executed their original plan to perfection during the World Cup final against England.
On their way to the final, South Africa had lost to the All Blacks (23-13), before clinching wins over Namibia (57-3), Italy (49-3), Canada (66-7), Japan (26-3 in the quarter-final), and Wales (19-16 in the semi-final) to set up a grandstand finale against bitter rivals England.
On their part, England ousted the likes of Argentina, the Wallabies and the All Blacks, to book a spot in the final. And as a result of those victories, Eddie Jones’ men were inserted as odds-on favourites to beat South Africa to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
And all the way through to the final, the Boks were bashed and criticised for their perceived lack of enterprise and innovation, with many saying Erasmus’ side play boring rugby. This while England were lauded for their exciting brand of rugby.
However, the Springboks sprung a surprise when they rolled out a different playing style as they bashed England into submission in the final to secure a record-equalling third World Cup title.
In his column for Stuff.co.nz, Venter writes that the Boks’ performance in the decider had been part of coach Erasmus’ plan all along and hinted that their previous displays had been a ploy to lull the opposition into a false sense of security.
‘Rassie Erasmus’ charges without doubt saved their best performance for last.’
‘There was plenty of uninformed analysis on how the Springboks changed their game plan in six days and one training session. However, that was definitely not the case. The men in green and gold instead executed their original plan to perfection. The victory was underpinned by scrum dominance, heroic defence and winning the aerial battle. And then when the opportunity presented itself the Springboks scored.
‘In contrast, England went in with the wrong plan. They definitely thought they could outflank and outwit the South African defence. They tried to carry the ball early on and it was a disaster. They gave a hungry, underdog Springbok team something to smash which was ludicrous. Moreover, the energy South Africa generated from their scrum dominance turned the final on its head and it’s tough to win a World Cup when your scrum is under pressure. As I predicted ahead of the final, it was the one area in which the Springboks surprised England, who had no reply.
‘Hindsight is an exact science and I think it’s far too simplistic to say that England played their final in the semi-final against the All Blacks. I disagree completely with that school of thought. I believe it’s about either having energy on the field or not. The one thing you don’t want the underdogs to do is get their tails up by smashing you.
‘England literally held out a red flag to the bull and said, “Here we are, tackle us!” And that is what South Africa did. The fact is that the South African forward unit beat the English pack. For me, that is 100 percent where the World Cup was won because you could see the spring in the step of the South Africans and their vibe compared to the English, who literally looked as if they were worried and uncomfortable all match. I think it was actually a deliberate ploy from Eddie Jones to instruct his team to retain the ball early on but it resulted in a tactical mistake.
‘In terms of the Springboks building on their success, as long as Erasmus stays in charge I foresee a bright future for SA rugby. Even if Jacques Nienaber were to be appointed as Springbok coach he would ostensibly still be an assistant because Erasmus would run it from his role of director of rugby.’
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