All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree says the wounded Springboks should not be underestimated when they take on the All Blacks in the 100th Test between the teams on Saturday.
After South Africa’s two consecutive defeats by the Wallabies over the past fortnight, they have relinquished their status as the No 1-ranked Test side and head into their clash with the All Blacks as underdogs.
Earlier this week, former New Zealand player and coach Laurie Mains said the “Boks won’t get close to the All Blacks” with the way they are playing at the moment.
“They just don’t have the cattle the moment, the world-class players there to actually do a lot about it. There’s four or five players in that team that simply are not up to Test level, and I think you’ll see that the All Blacks will run riot against them,” Mains offered.
But Plumtree, who spent the majority of his coaching career in South Africa, on Tuesday insisted that the All Blacks should be wary of a wounded Bok squad with its back to a wall.
“They’ll be hurting a lot,” Plumtree said. “They’re a very proud rugby nation. They’ll have a little bit of a corral mentality, especially when their own media and fans start getting stuck into the Springboks. That’s when they become an even more dangerous animal.
“It’s too late for them to change the way they play … but they’ll be looking at the areas that are letting them down. The coaching team will be smart enough to not overreact to the last couple of weeks, they’ll be looking at parts of their game they’ve got to get better at, and also at parts of our game that are obvious threats.”
Plumtree also spoke up in defence of the Boks about their highly debated playing style, explaining that South Africa’s brand of rugby suits them but that they’ve been on the wrong end of results because their standard of execution has been poor.
“Their game has changed now again, and it suits them. It’s more of a bully mentality around contestable kicks, really aggressive defence, and forward play around scrummaging and mauling that suits their DNA.
“But I saw them play some pretty good footy in the World Cup and against the Lions. They can play – they have some outstanding backs. You just don’t know what’s going to happen on the day, so we’ve got to be prepared for everything.
“We know there’s a lot of heat coming and we’ve got to be able to deal with that. And when it comes to these two teams the form book gets thrown out the window. There’s so much respect for each other’s games, what’s happened the last couple of weeks really doesn’t matter.
“We’ve been going all right; they’ve been disappointing by their standards. I’ve seen a lot of these contests and they’re often pretty close in the final quarter. We’re expecting a titanic battle up front, and there are some obvious parts of their game we have to worry about as well.”
With Jacques Nienaber set to announce the Bok team on Tuesday morning, Plumtree said it will be his toughest team selection since taking over as head coach because it is their first game against the All Blacks since winning the 2019 World Cup.
“You look at the experience South Africa have got, especially up front. There’s plenty there in a group that’s been there and done it for a while. They know the tricks of the trade and they’ve grown their game. We’ve got the same, and definitely in these big Test matches you do rely on your experience.”
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