Tactical switch pays dividends

The Springboks only realised their attacking potential at Newlands when they played to their traditional strengths, writes JON CARDINELLI.

There’s a lesson to be taken from the clash at Newlands. The Boks should play to their strengths rather than attempt to entertain via a frenetic and largely ineffective approach.

In the first half, the Boks resembled a basketball side rather than a rugby team. They played the game behind the gainline, and tried to score a try from first phase on every single attempt.

This approach yielded a slew of errors and just five points. Ironically, it was one of their ugliest displays of the season.

In the second stanza, however, they played the game in the right areas, and were more composed with ball in hand. During this period, they scored 23 unanswered points.

The impact of the Bok substitutes was profound, and coach Heyneke Meyer will feel vindicated that he kept the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Schalk Burger, Bakkies Botha, and even Pat Lambie for the final quarter. The Boks changed tactics in the second half, and the injection of these experienced players made all the difference.

Indeed, the Boks looked like world-beaters during that final quarter. The manner in which they played themselves into the Wallabies half, and then set Lambie up for the drop goal was outstanding. Lambie’s strike was true, and suddenly the Boks had taken a 11-10 lead.

While Oupa Mohoje had a productive outing at Newlands, the Boks’ intensity seemed to lift when Burger was introduced in the latter stages. Burger was everywhere, and his abrasive ball carrying and powerful defence ensured that the momentum shifted in the Boks’ favour.

The same was true of Botha and Du Plessis. Victor Matfield didn’t enjoy a particularly good first half, but was every bit the meneer in the second.

The Boks must remember this performance. They must remember the mistakes they made in the first half, and why they were more successful in the second.

Jean de Villiers is another player who redeemed himself towards the end of the game. De Villiers made some costly errors as a player and a captain in the first half, one of the worst being the decision to kick for touch in the 37th minute when the Boks had been awarded a penalty right in front of goal. The Boks lost possession at a subsequent ruck, and allowed the Wallabies to take a 10-5 lead into half-time.

The Boks kept the ball closer to the forwards in the second stanza, and worked hard for the right to go wide. The Wallabies had been game for the physical fight initially, but struggled to live with the Boks later in the contest.

The Boks secured the bonus point right on full time, and won 28-10. These numbers may suggest that they won comfortably, but it was anything but a comprehensive victory.

The Boks prospered when they kept the ball closer to their forwards. They were more effective at the collisions and more precise with ball in hand when they weren't trying to play the game at 1,000km/h.

When they kicked themselves into opposition territory and then controlled the ball through the phases, they looked unstoppable. When they built a platform through their forwards, the Bok backs looked every bit as devastating as their Aussie counterparts.

It’s an approach that proved successful against the Wallabies, and the only approach that will allow the Boks to score a win against the All Blacks next Saturday.

Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli