Former Bok lock Mark Andrews says the Springboks’ lineout woes were down to a combination of poor execution and clever competing from England. DYLAN JACK reports.
In their 12-11 loss at Twickenham, the Springboks were largely dominant in the first period, enjoying the most of possession and territory.
However, a malfunctioning lineout played a role in preventing the visitors from fully capitalising on their numerous opportunities, with hooker Malcolm Marx struggling to find his jumper on four occasions.
Andrews, who served as a lineout kingpin for both the Sharks and Springboks, told SARugbymag.co.za that England may have had more to do with the Boks’ lineouts struggles than what first appeared.
‘What England did is that they contested and then did not contest, so Marx was not sure if they were going to contest or not,’ Andrews said. ‘It is a catch-22 for the hooker as well as the jumpers. You want to attack off the back of a lineout because it creates more space for the maul.
‘If you throw it to the front or the middle, the defending side will try and push you towards the sideline as fast as possible. You can only fold one way, which is infield to get away from the outside line, which makes it easier to defend. When you throw it to the back, you create a 5m blindside, which means you can peel off any side. The defending side now cannot work you towards the sideline.
‘The Springboks were in a catch-22. They had to throw it to the back and open up the big blind side. It stops the opposing side pushing you towards the touchline. It is very hard to stop a maul from the back. I understand their call but the first rule is to win your lineout. They did not do that, they went for what they thought would be the easiest to score a try from.
‘Tactically it made 100% sense. But what they should have done is do a dummy to the back and push the ball to the middle. They went to the back every time and lost the ball. The irony is that every time they did go up, England did not contest completely. They put a dummy jumper up and it forced Marx to overthrow it.’
Andrews said that while Marx needs to take responsibility for failing to hit the target with his throw, Bok captain Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who calls the lineouts, could have made it easier for him.
‘At Test level, the hooker should have no problem finding his jumpers. As good as Marx is, you could see it had an impact on his game. He wasn’t really stealing the ball, he was not strong on ball carries. If I was Kolisi, I wouldn’t have put my hooker under that much pressure again. I would have taken the front ball, tried to work the maul off the front ball and if they pushed them out, at least they had a chance to have a go.
‘It was bad execution from Marx. But also bad calling from whoever makes the calls and thirdly, partially good defence by England for putting a dummy jumper up to force Marx to throw higher. ‘
The Springboks next face France who, with tall forwards in Louis Picamoles, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri and Paul Gabrillagues, will pose an equal threat at the lineout.
Andrews added that he would like to see the Springboks try something tactically different against the French.
‘I would like the Springboks to do two things to change the game up. One is to use the maul, but at the same time use the quick-ball off the top. [Eben] Etzebeth is out so you could have Pieter-Steph and Lood [de Jager]. So you have three big lineout forwards.
‘Use the ball off the top and have [Damian] de Allende smash it in midfield and then play off that. Or form the maul so the whole time it must be quick ball off the lineouts or driving.
‘Also I would like to see them bring in the wingers off the back of a lineout with the inside ball. So the flyhalf drifts and plays an inside ball to the centre and then plays an inside ball to the winger coming through. So you create uncertainty in the French defence.’
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