What NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks’ comfortable 49-3 victory over Italy in Shizuoka on Friday.
Cheslin Kolbe happens to be my favourite rugby player in the world at the moment. He is absolutely a little superstar. That try he scored, the tackles he made, the chasing, the follow-ups. He even outjumped Sergio Parisse – who is one of the best players in the world under the high ball – on an up-and-under. He’s absolutely magical.
It was summed up in that last try we scored when he chased down Matteo Minozzi, who tried to side-step him, which was a really stupid thing to do. You are never going to side-step Cheslin Kolbe. But the aggression with which he went into the tackle – to tackle him out – forced Minozzi to throw a stupid pass inside, which RG Snyman picked up on a plate. That try was Cheslin Kolbe’s try. Everything that forced the error from Matteo Minozzi was because of the way Cheslin Kolbe played. Fantastic effort, it’s just difficult to praise him too much. He is really the heartbeat of this Springbok side at the moment.
We shouldn’t risk him against Canada. I would never risk him. Get S’bu Nkosi involved. Siya [Kolisi] had a full 80 minutes today; there are a number of players who performed really well. I think against Canada you want to make sure that you start well, so we probably will have a mixed A and B team, to start, and then bring the A-team players who are going to play the quarter-final off after half time.
We spoke about the intensity we had to bring to this game and there was no doubt we brought that. The first 5-10 minutes was as hard and focused a performance by the pack that I’ve seen for ages. I mean, so much so that two tighthead props had to go off and we ended up with uncontested scrums – which didn’t work in our favour. But if we thought of our speed off the line, our defence, how we kept them in their half, we strangled them and scored a great maul try.
I just don’t understand the thought process behind [Handre] Pollard’s kicking in the first half. I mean, we were in our half, perhaps he’s got instructions to kick when we’re inside our own half. But, you have a penalty advantage – surely that’s an opportunity to have a crack with the ball in hand and not get negative. In fact, there had been three occasions when we’ve won turnovers in the opposition half that we’ve gone to the boot. And it’s really disappointing because it shows how nervous we are to play an attacking game.
I just think that the top-five other teams in the world would always use those opportunities to try and move the ball to create a try-scoring opportunity. It shows that our mindset is to be very conservative. We’re playing to a pattern, but we’re not even being allowed to play what’s in front of us. If we don’t score tries, we’re not going to win a quarter-final.
There was a wonderful passage of play in one of the tries – where there was inter-passing between [Malcolm] Marx and RG Snyman, I think. I think it ended up with a crosskick by Pollard. But the buildup to that try was when the team threw the shackles off and just said, “Listen, we’re a decent rugby side, we can hold on to passes.” And we are going to need to do that in the quarter-finals. We can’t kick penalties and up-and-unders only. We’ve got to create the opportunities.
At half time we were frustrated because there were opportunities that were left out there. Second half, the red card cost Italy. But at least we saw Willie come into the game a little bit more. We saw Damian de Allende probably play his best match for a very, very long time. Interplay between forwards and backs which we haven’t seen for ages. And we still saw offensive kicks but they ended up in tries. We weren’t kicking possession away. So this was a fantastic performance.
The score was a reflection of what Italy deserved. Had they played with 15 men for 80 minutes, with proper tightheads, we would’ve dominated the scrums to such an extent that they would’ve probably got 49 points. So, the red card was poetic justice.
It’s just so silly by the loosehead prop, Lovotti. Once you lift a person above the horizontal, it’s your responsibility to bring that player down gently. Now quite clearly they don’t do that. They actually end up by driving him into the ground. And it was just a ridiculous tackle. So, I thought the work done by [Wayne] Barnes, the TMO and his assistant referees was very good and very professional. And they came to the right decision. I mean you can’t spear-tackle a guy head first.
I think if you can get into the mindset of the players that once you’re getting front-foot ball and you’re going forward, and there are more attackers than there are defenders, you don’t want to set up a ruck. Once you’ve gone across the advantage line, your big players should be looking to maintain continuity. We can’t expect our backline to produce magic out of slow ruck ball. And if we keep on running off 9, we’re going to get slow ruck ball in a quarter-final.
Picture: EPA/Mark R. Cristino