Ex-All Blacks coach John Mitchell says the Springboks are predictable and that New Zealand continue to lead the way in terms of offloading.
Writing for ESPNScrum.com, Mitchell noted that all three southern hemisphere teams battled on occasion during the November Tests, but that the All Blacks were able to cope better with the northern hemisphere interpretation of the breakdown area. He put this down to their ability to keep the ball alive through offloading in the tackle situation.
'The All Blacks boast better ball-carrying technique than both the Springboks and Wallabies,' says Mitchell. 'The forwards from the latter two teams carry the ball in front of the body, whereas New Zealand's forwards run tall akin to their backline players for as long as possible and only lead with the body when they realise they won't have freedom or space in the collision.'
Having started the tour with Francois Hougaard and Handré Pollard as the preferred halfback pairing, Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie took over after the defeat against Ireland. While there were plenty positives to come out of their performances on tour, Mitchell was critical of the Boks' lack of variation, especially on their exit plays.
'The Bok scrum was inconsistent in Cardiff. Moreover, they struggled to exit with momentum as there weren't any lengthy or bringing-forward kicks.
'The South Africans almost always opted for the box-kick from the wide ruck. You never once saw the Springboks exiting with a kick or run after going wide to bring the open wing into the defence line and force the fullback into last man defender early. Their exit plays are very predictable, while the Wallabies take a bit more risk in that regard.'
However, Mitchell believes the defeats will stand them in good stead heading into a World Cup year.
'The Springboks would not have expected to lose to both Ireland and Wales, having won all of their end-of-year tour matches under Heyneke Meyer in 2012 and 2013. However, the forced introspection could make them a better team going forward. Ultimately, I believe that South Africa's destiny at the World Cup will be determined by selection and getting the right players in key positions.'
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