Following the conclusion of the Rugby Championship, CRAIG LEWIS identifies three points to ponder, including the latest deployment strategy of the Bomb Squad.
Boks couldn’t have asked for a better finish
Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have always been honest about acknowledging how three successive defeats at Test level serve to heighten the pressure on all involved, particularly when it comes to rugby-mad South Africa.
If the Boks had suffered a fourth consecutive loss in the Rugby Championship this past weekend, many questions would have been asked regardless of how close the margins of defeat were.
However, by beating the All Blacks, and doing so in some style, the Springboks have afforded themselves some much-needed breathing room, while also boosting confidence levels before heading off on the end-of-year tour.
As I wrote immediately after the game on Saturday, no matter what happens on the end-of-year tour now, the series triumph over the British & Irish Lions, and certainly this latest demonstration of balanced, winning rugby against the All Blacks have made this year a success.
Of course, the Boks will be targeting three wins from three on their UK trip, but the impressive all-round performance against New Zealand will have afforded them the opportunity to continue evolving their play and to provide different players with much-needed game time.
Bomb Squad ignites in new ways
By the end of the Rugby Championship, the Springboks seemed to settle on a different deployment strategy for the Bomb Squad, reverting to a five-three forwards-to-backs configuration.
There were still some similarities, such as we saw on Saturday when the full front row was replaced around the half-time interval.
However, there was also far more liberal deployment of the backline substitutes Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn and Elton Jantjies.
All three were outstanding last Saturday, but what we’ve also seen is that with a few more backline options on the bench, it does provide new avenues to disrupt and threaten the opposition.
When Willie le Roux endured a forgettable first-half performance, the opportunity was there to bring on the experience of Frans Steyn, while a head injury to Sbu Nkosi didn’t result in disaster because, instead, Elton Jantjies was available to come off the bench. After Faf de Klerk had emptied the tank, Herschel Jantjies was also ready to bring the desired energy off the bench.
It’s clear that Nienaber was far more confident and assured in his deployment of the Bomb Squad this past Saturday, and it served the team particularly well.
Which players should inject new energy on the end-of-year tour?