‘Sharks did the hard work first’

Four former Springboks on whether the Sharks' game plan is the way to beat New Zealand sides, rather than the Lions'.

Ollie le Roux (former Bok prop)

'What the Sharks showed us last weekend, and what few people understand, is that when you play New Zealand sides, especially sides with a lot of Maori, you have to be so physical that it's actually frightening. But you cannot just play a physical game, because they can handle it. Along with that physicality you need a player like Keegan Daniel who can make something happen. He broke them apart on attack three or four times. Once you’ve matched them physically, smashed them in the scrums, defended well, and broken them apart on attack, the game starts to looks like an easy one, but it's because all the hard work has already been done. Against New Zealand sides you need to get the balance right, and “build an innings”, and that’s what I saw in the Sharks' game against the Hurricanes. The Lions play a great style of rugby, but it’s also very high-risk because when it goes wrong you can easily get 50 points scored against you. But the Lions weren’t outplayed by the Hurricanes, the bounce of the ball was in favour of the Canes on the day. There were two intercept passes in the first half that could have gone either way and that was essentially a 14-point swing in favour of the Canes. A balance between the two styles of play [Sharks and Lions] is what you are looking to achieve in order to challenge and beat the Kiwi sides regularly.'

Werner Swanepoel (former Bok scrumhalf)

'I don’t believe there is a cast-in-stone game plan on how to beat New Zealand sides because on the day anything can happen, but one thing you always need to aim for is to put the opposition under pressure so you can play the game you want to. The Lions were unable to do that against the Hurricanes and quickly found themselves 21-0 down [in the first half], whereas the Sharks were in the game from the first minute because they were able to apply that pressure which kept the Hurricanes on the back foot. The Sharks executed their game plan excellently against the Hurricanes, and they beat them on the ground winning 16 turnovers, which is what the Hurricanes did to the Lions. The Sharks forwards were exceptional and did well to compete for the ball at the breakdown. They were able to put the Hurricanes under pressure in that area and playing off the back foot is never easy for any team. But I think as South African teams we still need to fine-tune where to play on the field and when to run and when to kick. For now we can’t look too far ahead in terms of the Boks' game plan against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship, we need to be focused on Ireland. Allister Coetzee is an experienced campaigner and he’s got his mind set on what he believes will work for the Boks against any side. I think he'll pick a balance of youth and experience for the Ireland series, but hopefully we will see a bit more attacking from the Boks than we have in the past. I hate to say it, but the All Blacks are the benchmark in terms of attacking rugby and you simply can’t ignore that fact.'

Pieter Hendriks (former Bok wing)

‘The Sharks did very well against the Hurricanes, but I won't say it’s a complete game plan to beat the New Zealand teams. However, the Sharks did very well on defence, and they avoided playing channel-one ball in order to counter the rush defence that the Hurricanes also used against the Lions. The Sharks played from depth on attack, and whether you are playing flat or deep the players running onto the ball should be coming from depth to give you that extra bit of space when the opposition is using a rush defence. The Sharks matched the Hurricanes physically and competed at the breakdown, which the Lions didn’t do. I don’t think it was a case of the Lions' game plan letting them down, they weren’t able to adapt to the pressure the Hurricanes were putting on them and they [the players and coaches] didn’t read the game very well. It’s the first time we've seen a weakness in the Lions' game plan and their coaching staff – their inability to adapt. What Gary Gold and his Sharks coaching staff also did really well was they didn't change players for the sake of it. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an impact player – an impact player in my book is a player who packs the bags into the bus – players are there to do a job and do it properly. Gold kept his best team on the field until the game was won and there was little chance for the Hurricanes to make a comeback. I hope the Springbok coaching staff learn that if the players on the park are doing the job there is no need to make substitutions. Allister also needs to pick the right players who can physically match the All Blacks and players with the necessary skills and temperament to play Test rugby. Test rugby is pressure rugby and you need players who are able to adapt. I would have liked to see the Sharks attack more, but on Saturday the ball possession and the field position did not allow for it. Like the Sharks, the Springboks will have to get more ball so they can attack more, but not through channel one. I would also like to see the backline attacking from first-phase ball.'

Garry Pagel (former Bok prop)

‘Everyone expected the Sharks to struggle a bit against the Hurricanes. On the day the Hurricanes made a few errors that cost them, but the defence of the Sharks was excellent and that kept the Canes out of the game. It was one of those games when the things you try, work for you and that makes the game a bit easier. The Sharks have a good, structured game plan, but I don’t think the two game plans [Sharks and Lions] are too far apart from each other, and ultimately it was the Sharks' defence against the Hurricanes that won them the match. But I still don't think you can base the success or failure of a game plan on just one game. In terms of the Boks using either game plan against the All Blacks, it will depend on where Allister picks his players from. However, he can’t go wrong if he uses elements from either game plan when they come up against the All Blacks later this year.'

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