Springboks defence a ‘high-risk, high-reward’ system

SA Schools coach and defence specialist Katleho Lynch says coaches need to fully understand the fundamentals behind the Springboks’ successful press defence before trying to replicate it. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Springboks’ success at the 2019 World Cup was largely built on their defence and ability to fully capitalise on their opponents’ errors. Under Jacques Nienaber, the Boks employed the press defence to great effect, with wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe flying forward to shut down potential linebreaks.

The success of this system was highlighted during the World Cup final against England – when the Springboks spent the better part of 10 minutes defending their own tryline, forcing England to settle for a penalty instead of a try.

In a wide-ranging interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Lynch – the current head of rugby at St John’s College in Johannesburg – broke the Boks’ systems down.

‘I think it comes down to player personnel,’ Lynch said. ‘This system, if you have a look at the northern-hemisphere sides like Cardiff Blues, they have been using it for a while but for them it works. It is a high-risk, high-reward system.

‘If your wings are smart enough and have been coached to get up and make those reads, nine times out of 10, they will force a bad pass or will intercept. But if they don’t get that right, there is always the opportunity for the attacking side to get behind them and score. It really comes down to your personnel.’

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The success of the system may attract other coaches to employ it with their respective teams. However, Lynch warns that it is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all type of system. He specifically points out that it needs to be married with a good exit strategy and kick-chase in order for it to be effective in applying pressure.

‘The problem that I have is that coaches try to copy it, without understanding the fundamentals of it,’ Lynch added. ‘It is a high-risk, high-reward system as well as a high-energy defence system. If you have a look at the Boks last year during the final, they just defended and defended.

‘With that, it comes down to your kicking game. So, coaches are copying it, but they are not applying the kicking game to it. So you can’t use that system if you want to run the whole game on attack, or run from your own 22-metre area. Those are just some of the fundamentals that go with this system.’


Photo: Ivan Shum – Clicks Images/Getty Images

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Dylan Jack