Men in black are not unbeatable

14 September 2017 - 07:52 By Gary Gold
Joe Rokocoko of the All Blacks.
Joe Rokocoko of the All Blacks.
Image: HANNAH JOHNSTON/GALLO IMAGES

The Springboks will be pretty disappointed they did not win the Test match against Australia in Perth on Saturday, knowing the standards this group sets itself.

While the visitors displayed fantastic character to claim a 23-23 draw, having trailed 20-10 in the second half, they missed out on a real opportunity to collect their maiden victory in Australia since 2013.

The Boks came away with two log points from the encounter, but now trail the All Blacks by three points on the Rugby Championship standings.

If facing the Wallabies was the appetiser, duelling with the All Blacks will be the main course.

Travelling to New Zealand and trying to win a match is simply the ultimate test.

The last time the Springboks were successful on New Zealand soil was back in 2009 when I was part of the Bok coaching set-up.

Eight years ago we enjoyed unprecedented success against the All Blacks by beating them three times in a row. We employed a territory-based game, targeted the All Black wingers under the high ball and our kick-chase was second to none.

Though Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu were unbelievable players and brilliant with ball in hand, we were able to apply plenty of pressure and expose them under the high ball, which effectively brought an end to their international careers.

While the game has moved on and those selfsame tactics will not necessarily work against the current All Black side, the Boks' ability to hold onto the ball for a number of phases when they get into the right areas of the field is going to be critical.

Primarily, the easiest way to stop the All Blacks from hurting you on attack is by denying them ball possession.

If it means the Boks have to be patient and go through the phases in order to wear the All Blacks down, then so be it.

Defending against the All Blacks is always a difficult job because they are such an exceptional team, but I do not agree with John Plumtree's assessment that the Springboks lack the defensive system required to shut down the All Blacks' attack.

Against the Wallabies, the perception was that the Boks were too passive on defence because they found themselves employing a shift defence - in order to deal with Australia's wide-wide attack - as opposed to an aggressive up and off-the-line defence.

It is such a small tweak and, knowing Brendan Venter as well as I do, there is no doubt he will have picked up on it and will rectify it in time for the clash at QBE Stadium.

The All Blacks boast an embarrassment of riches - they are unbelievably well-coached and possess a great group of players.

However, as the British and Irish Lions underlined, the men in black are not unbeatable. Quite often I feel teams prepare themselves to defend against the All Blacks for the full 80 minutes, which is the wrong strategy.

You have to ensure that you look after the ball and build sustainable pressure. The Lions asked questions of the All Blacks with ball in hand and showed that eventually the pressure will get to New Zealand. I would like to see the Springboks play with the confidence they have picked up over the past few months, and back themselves on attack against the All Blacks in Albany on Saturday.

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