Five lessons from the Rugby Championship match between the Springboks and All Blacks at Ellis Park, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Springboks are still not as fit as the All Blacks
Heyneke Meyer said in the buildup to the Ellis Park Test that he did not believe the Boks were fit enough to win the World Cup. They were certainly not as fit as the All Blacks, who once again stepped up a gear in the final quarter of the match while the Boks faded. In the 2013 Test at Ellis Park, the Boks led 27-24 after 58 minutes only to lose 38-27. Last year, they were 21-13 ahead at the break, yet trailed 25-24 with 10 minutes to go before Pat Lambie stepped up to save the day. And this time, the Boks were up 17-10 early in the second half before slumping to a 27-20 loss. Meyer said afterwards that he would be focusing on his players’ conditioning in the weeks ahead, and hopefully that will ensure there’s not a repeat situation if the teams meet in a World Cup semi-final.
The All Blacks remain the game's leading innovators
New Zealand were trailing 20-17 with six minutes remaining when they scored a try from a lineout move that no one had seen before. No 8 Kieran Read went up to take the ball at the back, hooker Dane Coles made as if to take it at the front, with flanker Richie McCaw moving into the gap to claim possession and dive over the line. While it may have been illegal, how many other teams could pull a rabbit out of the hat like that?
Uncontested scrums should not take place with six fit front-rowers on the field
With Sam Whitelock having been yellow-carded in the 59th minute of the Ellis Park Test, the Boks would have hoped to make their one-man advantage count at scrum time. Except they couldn’t, as French referee Jérôme Garcès insisted on uncontested scrums. It appeared to be a strange decision, as while the Boks had replaced injured tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis at the start of the second half with Vincent Koch, who later left the field because of a head gash, they still had Trevor Nyakane, who can play loosehead and tighthead. However, Nyakane was not a designated tighthead for this match, so according to World Rugby protocol there had to be uncontested scrums for safety reasons. With six fit front rowers on the field, common sense should have prevailed, but instead the Boks lost the opportunity to dominate a seven-man All Blacks scrum.
You've got to score points against 14 men
Uncontested scrums helped the All Blacks, but the Boks still should have made their numerical advantage count. However, they were unable to add to their tally while Whitelock was in the bin, with Schalk Burger turning down an easy three points for an attacking scrum. That 10-minute period was a golden opportunity for the Boks to take charge of proceedings, and their failure to do so cost them as the All Blacks finished with a flourish once restored to 15 men.
The Boks' breakdown assault is a team effort
Gone are the days when only the openside flank performed the role of a fetcher for the Boks. At Ellis Park on Saturday, the loose trio of Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Louw and Schalk Burger, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel, and even winger Bryan Habana all made an impact at the breakdown, forcing crucial turnovers and slowing down All Blacks' ball.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images