The ability to salvage a hard-fought 16-16 draw with the All Blacks in Wellington spoke volumes about the guts and determination of the Springbok side, writes former Bok hooker JAMES DALTON.
Statistically the Boks were outmatched, while Cheslin Kolbe put through a chip that bounced beautifully in a not so beautiful situation to salvage a draw. It was a result that did justice to the old adage ‘fortune favours the brave’.
And yes, the men in green and gold were brave in managing to draw equal to an All Blacks side that statistically dominated every facet of the game outside tackles and turnovers made.
However, while the All Blacks were emphatically dominant in both territory and possession and their attacking prowess delivered 16 linebreaks in 401 carries to the Springboks’ four in 237 carries, both sides hit 80 minutes with one try on the scoreboard.
Although this doesn’t say much for the Boks’ defensive structure or their execution on attack, it speaks volumes for their guts and determination. Factors that count more in the dying minutes of a tight game than any amount of attacking flare.
I’ve mentioned it many times and I’ll say it again as it remains pertinent following this weekend’s match – a rugby game centres on what a team can do without the ball. The Springboks, in effecting seven turnovers to the All Blacks’ four – the last of which led to their draw-clinching try – affirmed this once again.
I don’t believe that the All Blacks, however dominant especially throughout the second half, looked a particularly good side. With that said, they only looked as good as the Boks allowed them to.
The Springboks rush defense appeared to trouble them, but it’s a tactic that needs to be properly ironed out and effected by the World Cup, as some players often rushed too hard, leaving defensive gaps which the All Blacks were, and will be, quick to exploit.
If not properly implemented this could become the Springboks’ defensive achilles heel. The outside backs also need to be careful of marking their man rather than the ball – as if your man drifts, the ball will always beat you.
From an attacking perspective the Boks need to reach some sort of conclusion regarding their box kicks. They aimed for a style of play that revolved around these kicks from ruck time, but Faf de Klerk was often ineffective in his execution, tying in to what appeared to be the theme of the day in kicking away possession.
The Boks need to be more clinical and considered when kicking for territory or they need to opt for a style of play that centres less on the kick and chase.
Much like the Australian encounter, the final result was the product of a good collective effort from the team. While I didn’t feel anyone shot the lights out on Saturday, Pieter-Steph Du Toit continues to be impressive with his prowess and consistency and Kwagga Smith was sound in doing the job he was picked for at openside flank.
I hope that Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe pick up their form before the World Cup, as they are currently not performing as the best props in South Africa. Among the backs, it was another impressive outing for bolter Herschel Jantjies. Cheslin Kolbe was our best on attack while also being defensively sound in making 13 tackles and missing only two against an All Black attack that clearly aimed to target him as the Springboks’ defensive weak link.
I was vocal at the beginning of the year that the Springboks need to be picking their best sides and building a winning culture before the World Cup.
As they look set to secure their first Rugby Championship win in a long time – granted a successful effort is needed against a physical and aggrieved Pumas side following their loss to the Aussies – the Boks can leave for Japan with confidence in their winning prowess somewhat assured.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images