Let’s stop pretending that the forthcoming game against New Zealand could produce anything of value for South Africa.
There is almost nothing we can gain from it except embarrassments. We can’t scum or lineout or box kick or rush defence because we don’t have the set piece to do it. Yes, the box kick is hopeless if done with back foot ball. We can’t crash ball because we don’t have the loose trio or locks to take the ball up and neither do have we the ability to protect the ball when we hit contact.
We can’t compete at the breakdowns because we don’t have the speed or ability in the loose trio to win the trench warfare.
We can’t run the ball because we won’t get front foot ball at set piece, line out or from crash ball and we don’t have centres that can pass the ball or create space.
Putting hope on Lambie to create magic is like asking a single snowball to cool down hell.
Lambie will be targeted and with back foot ball he’ll struggle to get out of this game with his reputation intact.
It’s going to be a massacre to put it bluntly so I’ve decided to shift my attention to what one can learn from the All Blacks.
Henry said his All Black coaching template is to create a strong base structure so the side could deliver variety.
“I am not a great believer that structure decreases flair,” he said. “I think structure increases the ability to express yourself.
“We are trying to develop a game which is pliable.
“It is set-piece game, breakdown game.
“Then you can vary how you try and break the opposition down from there with the individuals in your group.“
I am keen to see whether they are going to use the same two-on-one defensive strategy as the Aussies.
I am keen to see how they are going to approach the breakdowns. Toby Robson wrote an article this week in which he made the following comments regarding the All Blacks approach with regard to the breakdowns.
It has been impressive to watch the All Blacks coaches in action this week as they set to work on the detail of an area that is increasingly deciding the outcomes of test-match rugby.
Two weeks ago Samoa used the counter-ruck to destroy Australia’s search for quick attacking ball, something South Africa failed to achieve with disastrous results in Sydney last weekend.
After dispatching Fiji 60-14 at Carisbrook in Dunedin last Saturday, the All Blacks admonished themselves for their lack of effectiveness at the contact area. The ball was slow to emerge on attack or turned over as Fijian defenders were allowed to linger at the tackle, while opportunities to counter-ruck were missed.
Part of the problem was that the All Blacks played a wide game from set piece, but did not send all of their forwards to the breakdown. For such a plan to be effective it requires a total buy-in to ball retention and after watching the All Blacks train it is clearly an area in which they plan to improve.
“You try and work on weaknesses in some areas,” halfback Piri Weepu said yesterday.
“Most teams go out wide and the old cliche is backs can’t clean out and protect the ball, so our main focus is to protect the ball no matter what number you are wearing.
“Everyone has to do their jobs and know their roles so come breakdown time everyone is protecting the ball and reading the situation when we are able to counter-ruck.”
Such focus takes accuracy and good decision-making to be effective. The sight of foraging openside flankers such as Richie McCaw snaffling turnovers at the tackle has become rarer this season. Instead of going for the ball, tacklers are trying to get to their feet then take the “metre” or the space beyond the ball. That provides an opportunity for their team-mates to counter-ruck and drive past the ball in numbers.
Commit too many players to a failed quest for a turnover though and you get caught out on defence. It’s that balance the All Blacks appear to be working hard to get right. It is a detail within the structure of how they plan to play in coming weeks, but it may not be the focal point in a month’s time.
You get the feeling this team want to be able to play whatever style their opposition presents, but it will be interesting to see how much is held back when the cup campaign begins. That’s not in terms of intensity or effort, but in how much they plan to play the game.
“Last year in particular we came out and provided a different way to play footy and then two or three weeks later everyone else was playing the same,” Mils Muliaina said this week.
“You have to come up with a few new things, but being World Cup year you have to make sure you don’t leave too much in your back pocket. “It is kind of difficult. Particularly in this environment you don’t want to be experimenting too much. You want to go out with the expectation that you just want to win and you don’t want to be holding things back but you don’t want to show your cards too early.”
I am keen to see how they are going to approach this game in terms of the tactics at the breakdowns. Against Fiji they were far less aggressive with regard to claiming that ‘meter-beyond-the-ball’ at the collisions. Are they trying to create an illusion that they are not going to play like that anymore and then bring it back in the quarters, semi-finals and finals (if they get that far) or are we going to see the Owen Franks obstructive blocking position taking again at the breakdowns.
Messam and Kieran Read are not playing and they are the cavalry that provides directness on attack for the All Blacks. Thompson is a more lateral player so I am wondering how they are going to approach this match with the ball in hand.
I reckon they are going to try and give us a psychological blow and are going to attack our set piece (scrum and line-out) and considering our weakness at the breakdowns they are going to attack our midfield (channels 1 and 2) trying to punch holes with off-loads and with Nonu before recycling and spinning it wide.
For the first time in my life I am more intrigued about how the All Black is going to play the game then us.
It is hard to say this but I am not looking forward to this game. I just don’t see light in the tunnel with the current coaching and management structures in the Springbok camp.
For those that want to call me negative I can only say what one of my students said just before the final exams: “Everyone is stressing about the upcoming exams and I am starting to stress because I am not stressed.”
To spell out if you are not worried about what is happening with Springbok rugby at the moment you just don’t understand the situation.