All Blacks Edge Springboks In Nail-biter

The All Blacks edged the Springboks 27 to 20 at Emirates Park in a tight Test match befitting of the top two rugby nations.

South Africa – tries: Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel Conversions: Handre Pollard (2) Penalties: Pollard (2)
New Zealand – tries: Ben Smith, Dane Coles, Richie McCaw Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (3) Penalties: Sopoaga (2)

The South African Perspective

The All Blacks started the game off with the intent to play the game at an extremely high pace, taking quick tap penalties from far out to try to disrupt the Springbok defensive pattern. The Springboks were up for this and managed to dominate large parts of the game and brought some variety to their game not seen for a long time. Instead of their usual game plan based on mauls and one off runners in midfield, there was variety in their lineout attack as well as when spreading the ball wide. Ruan Pienaar’s passing remains questionable as it was occasionally wide of the first receiver as well as a little slow.

French referee Jerome Garces and his assistants did not have the greatest of games, with question marks over how they allowed both sides to compete at the breakdown as well their generous officiating of the offside laws. Having said this, his controversial decision to call for uncontested scrums when Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch was taken off due to injury was 100% correct. Despite the fact that both teams had two props on the field and Koch’s replacement, Trevor Nyakane, has experience as a tighthead prop, World Rugby’s directive is that if both of a team’s tighthead prop options are replaced due to injury, uncontested scrums are mandatory. This is a real pity as the lack of latitude in applying the law in this instance robbed the paying public of a true contest. This is not the sole reason for the Springboks loss, but it certainly had a role to play in them losing the momentum they had built.

The centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Jessie Kriel had another great game and Heyneke Meyer’s new headache will be how to accommodate Jean de Villiers on his return from injury. Lood de Jager had a superb game calling the lineouts as well as continuously testing the All Blacks defense with a very high work rate carrying the ball. It is credit to him that the three lineouts the Springboks lost on their own throw were after he was substituted. The standing ovation he received when he left the field is testament to the crowds’ appreciation of his contribution.

In retrospect, this was the second game within a week that the Springboks let a game slip which they could have won. The positive take out from this though was that Meyer had pulled the bulk of his senior players off the field, leaving a very young team out there to gain the experience that will stand them in good stead come Rugby World Cup time and into 2016 when they will be the new faces of the Springboks going forward.

As one pundit has quite correctly pointed out, the Springboks are not as fit as their All Black counterparts. This is a symptom of the fact that New Zealand Super Rugby teams play the game at a higher pace and the South African franchises play a slower, forwards based game. Meyer has just over fifty days to improve the Springboks aerobic fitness to ensure that they can compete in the last twenty minutes of each of their Rugby World Cup games.

On a more poignant note, this was Richie McCaw’s last Test match on South African soil and to have scored the decisive try was his final stamp of authority. Hamba kahle Richie.

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