Ahead of the Springboks’ final Rugby Championship match, CRAIG LEWIS identifies three points to ponder, including whether Elton Jantjies needs a decent run.
Will the Boks stick or twist?
More than enough has been said and written about the Springboks’ return to a low-risk, territorial-based approach against New Zealand this past weekend, which very nearly resulted in what would have been a famous win in the 100th Test between the two rivals.
It’s only in response to a last-gasp defeat that some critics have suggested the Boks blew it, and that their style of play isn’t doing them any favours.
However, my feeling is that the Springboks would have taken great confidence from the manner in which they threw the All Blacks off their game, limiting them to a solitary try, and largely forcing them into a litany of turnovers (a whopping 24 in total).
Where some of the frustration has stemmed from is that there were occasions, particularly in the final minutes, where the Boks failed to make the most of a numbers advantage, which called for better communication and decision-making to attack space with ball in hand rather than kick possession away.
These are the fine margins of Test rugby, but the Boks will closely review the occasions where they could have backed themselves a bit more after doing all the hard yards to create such opportunities.
This is an area where the Springboks will want to evolve between now and the next World Cup, while assistant coach Deon Davids has already admitted they had “looked in depth at our game management in the last 10 minutes” and could have made better decisions.
The Boks are going to stick to what worked so well over the weekend, but the so-called ‘game drivers’ in the backline will be far more mindful of taking better advantage when they have earned the right to go wide.
Let Elton loose
In hindsight, it was rather unfortunate that a late injury concern over Marco van Staden meant Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber couldn’t bring Elton Jantjies off the bench as he was the last remaining substitute on Saturday.
Jantjies hasn’t played much Test rugby this year, but he boasts plenty of experience, and one of his natural strengths is identifying when there is space to attack with ball in hand.
That plan had been to bring Jantjies on around the 70-minute mark on Saturday, and while his introduction will remain subject to the manner in which the game is panning out, it would be good to see him unleashed with at least a quarter of the game to go this coming Saturday.
An argument could be made that the 31-year-old has been underutilised this year, but with Handre Pollard struggling for his best form at the moment, Jantjies remains a key backup option on the bench.
If the Boks can replicate their efforts of their first matchup and be in with a shot of victory heading into the final half an hour, there may be an opportunity to let Jantjies loose to fuel the Springboks’ killer instinct this time around.
Springboks still without trump card
After last featuring against Argentina on 21 August, Cheslin Kolbe was expected to be ready and available to add his unique X-factor qualities to the Bok arsenal.
Sbu Nkosi hasn’t had many attacking opportunities over the past three Test matches, but has certainly acquitted himself well once again, particularly when it comes to chasing and competing for contestable kicks.
However, there was a reason why the Springboks kept Kolbe in camp, waiting for him to finally be ready to grab another piece of Rugby Championship action.
Unfortunately he has failed to recover in time, and whichever way you look at it, there is no doubt that the Springboks will continue to miss one of their greatest attacking weapons who would have offered a much-needed injection of unpredictability and creativity to proceedings.
Kolbe always seemed to play incredibly well against the All Blacks, but in his absence, Nkosi does have one final opportunity to make his presence felt.
No weapon formed against me shall prosper.
Isaiah 54:17 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/tcrxfSHO5i
— Cheslin Kolbe (@Cheslin_Kolbe11) September 22, 2021