Springboks Impressive Despite Loss to the All Blacks

The Springboks impressive turnaround will have brought a lot of cheer to their fans, despite their loss to the All Blacks in Cape Town in their final Rugby Championship 2017 game.

Springboks Impressive Despite Loss to the All Blacks

In his article, Last Word on Rugby’s Scott Hornell made the point that the All Blacks can be vulnerable. They were not off their game against the Springboks, but were occasionally a little sloppy on attack.

South Africa 24 New Zealand 25


South Africa: Tries: Ross Cronje, Jean-Luc du Preez, Malcom Marx Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Handre Pollard Penalty: Jantjies

New Zealand: Tries: Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2) Penalty: Beauden Barrett, Sopoaga

We take a look at few key thoughts coming out of this game.

The Defense

The Springboks stood up to the All Blacks, putting the 57 to nil humiliation in Albany behind them. At times, their defense had to be really frenetic to keep the All Blacks at bay, but the long periods of time that they defended their line shows that the Springboks were really up for this match.

Taking a realistic look at the points the Springboks conceded, the first two tries that the All Blacks scored were off Springbok mistakes while they were in possession. The mistakes were made and the tries were scored. Without those mistakes, the result could have been very different.

Attacking Intent

The adjustment in the Springboks attacking intent was the biggest step forward for the team. The running and passing intent that we have seen this year was still there, but doing that after the forwards have carried the ball, hitting the defensive line hard made a huge difference. This is closer to the traditional South African game. Mixed with the attractive running and passing game that the fans want to see, the Springboks have proved that they can once again be competitive with their old foe, the All Blacks.

The Kicking Game

This could be considered the weak point of the Springboks performance. Out of hand kicks by Elton Jantjes and Andries Coetzee and box kicks by scrumhalf Ross Cronje were generally too deep, allowing the All Blacks back three, especially Man of the Match Damien McKenzie, too much latitude to run the ball back at them. Kicking from the base of the ruck and scrum is not in Cronje’s DNA. We barely see this in Super Rugby, so it is a completely out of character for him.

That Red Card

Damian de Allende’s late hit on Lima Sopoaga was a moment of pure soap opera. In reality, there was nothing in it. Sopoaga’s attempted drop goal went wide. De Allende’s “charge down” was clumsy at best. The problem was that De Allende’s forearm hit Sopoaga in the face. No matter how you look at the incident, the laws of the game are clear and referee Jerome Garces had no choice other than to pull the red card out of his pocket.

Post publishing edit: At De Allende’s Foul Play Review Committee appearance, SANZAAR stated that his actions did not warrant a red card. In the cold light of day, they are correct. The wording of the laws on the other hand, dictate otherwise. Allowing the referee to apply some common sense would go a long way in preventing this type of controversy.

Man of the Match

The Man of the  Match award went to New Zealand’s Damian McKenzie. The broadcaster’s probably thought they had to give the award to a player in the winning team, but in reality Malcolm Marx was the standout player on the field. His set piece play was solid, but it was his running with the ball in hand, as well as being a real menace at ruck time that made him stand out. The turnover penalties he won, along with fellow front row forward Stephen Kitshoff, on the Springboks tryline kept them in the game.

Not Conceding to Your Opponent

The end of the first half was a statement of intent by both sides. Neither would concede that they were finished playing and wanted to go to the change room. The end of the half was only blown in the 49th minute. Credit to both teams for their conditioning to keep on playing for nearly 90 minutes in total.

The Bench

The bench made a difference for the Springboks. Wilco Louw made a real difference when he replaced the struggling Ruan Dreyer at tighthead prop. Before he had to leave the field due to a Head Injury Assessment, Handre Pollard attacked the advantage line. Franco Mostert was also impressive when he replaced Lood de Jager. The disappointment was when Alistair Coetzee replaced the impressive Jan Serfontein with Damian de Allende. Serfontein delivered his best performance for a long time, both on attack and defense. We have already mentioned his mistake in taking Sopoanga out late that earned his red card, but his drift inside on defense created the space for McKenzie to break the Springbok line and score the winning try. Tough, but reality.

The Conclusion

It is not an exaggeration to state that the entire rugby world needed this great contest. For the game around the world, it needed to be shown that the All Blacks can be challenged. For South African Rugby, the confidence they will take out of this result will be immense. The real test for the Springboks will be their ability to replicate this form and intensity during the End of Year Tour, during which they will face Ireland, France, Italy and Wales.

Visuals courtesy of @SuperSportTV

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