The Springboks emphatically banished any criticism of being too one-dimensional in a final against England that showcased subtle confidence and creativity, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Throughout the World Cup, the Boks played to key strengths such as their set piece, maul and a prolific kicking game, while using aggressive defence as a weapon.
After grinding out a semi-final win over Wales, there were some who suggested the Springboks would need to offer some variation and innovation to thwart England in the title decider.
As it turned out, the Boks didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, with their monstrous scrum proving decisive, but they also executed a measured and courageous gameplan to perfection.
Take a look at just a few examples below. So often Willie le Roux came under fire from critics during the tournament due to a perceived lack of form, but Rassie Erasmus stuck by his veteran fullback due to his experience and strengths that so often go unnoticed.
In this image below, you can the see the value Le Roux adds with his left boot. He is used at first receiver, and spots and exploits the space with a superb kick deep into England territory.
As the Boks often do, and as you can see in another example below, Le Roux comes in as a playmaker at first receiver, with Pieter-Steph du Toit running a dummy/blocking line as Handre Pollard loops around from deep.
In the next image, you can see it’s actually Du Toit’s blocking run that takes out Courtney Lawes and opens up a hole for Pollard to attack at pace.
From the next phase, the Boks are willing to take the ball wide, with Pollard finding Damian de Allende with a long pass. De Allende has been playing with real confidence, and due to his strength as a ball-carrier, he has become a primary threat to opposing defenders.
In the split screen below, England’s Tom Curry does a great job on defence, but you can see how De Allende attacks the flank’s inside shoulder with the ball in two hands. He draws the attention of two defenders and then fires a bullet pass to Siya Kolisi.
Again, just before half time, the Boks show a willingness to play the ball wide after winning a scrum penalty. Pollard takes the ball flat and feeds De Allende. The big centre does eat up some space, but he targets flyhalf George Ford, who was terrorised in the final, and then sends a no-look pass to Lukhanyo Am after riding the contact.
With front-foot ball, the Boks are having a field day against England, but besides the threats posed by De Allende and the willingness to offer variety on attack, they then delivered this bit of compelling innovation below.
With a six-point lead, the Springboks set up this unique midfield maul from general play. One has to fully appreciate the organisation of this, with seven forwards in perfect unison. This triangle-formation maul leads to another important penalty as England are caught completely off guard, and concede a penalty for collapsing.
Finally, let’s enjoy this beaut of a try below, with the handling, interplay and vision of Makazole Mapimpi and Am all coming together in fine fashion.
All in all, these examples aptly showcase the confidence of the Boks in the final. Their willingness to back their skills and the intricate planning of the coaches and players showed.
More than anything, it was also about the Springboks’ excellent execution on the grandest stage of them all.
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images