Match Preview: Springboks v All Blacks, Durban, 1 Aug 2009
by Tracey Nelson
31 Jul 2009
After a fairly ordinary first half last week where they only had 40% of possession and territory, the All Blacks managed to improve their game in the second half to give themselves a chance of winning the game. Unfortunately, they still failed to convert pressure into points and instead ending up conceding a try after two very ordinary passes and a missed catch. What do the All Blacks need to change this weekend to win in Durban?
How to beat South Africa: Lesson 102
The All Blacks could do with a bit of kissing at the moment. As in KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! For starters their set piece, being kick-offs/restarts, scrums and lineouts. Get the basics right first. So that means chasing your own restarts and contesting the ball, getting players around the ball receiver and protecting that possession, and not letting props attempt dinky little drop outs on your own 22. We’d like to see the halfback feed the ball corectly into the scrum, or at least not so obviously under the hooker’s feet if the referee is standing right beside you. And please, please – for our first lineout throw of the game let’s not throw long to the back this time? You know, just for once let the thrower and jumpers get some rhythm going first?
And while we’re talking lineouts, how about contesting the opposition throws? Because it’s clear to all and sundry we have no clue how to stop a rolling maul even when we don’t contest and stack up in an attempt to stop the drive. Quite how we can’t sack the jumper when we’re just standing there waiting for him to get free ball in the first instance is yet another mystery of the universe, so therefore we may as well contest because the stats so far tell me that we have a better defensive success rate contesting lineouts than attempting to stop rolling mauls where we are conceding a penalty every third time.
Committing some numbers to the breakdown and actually driving over the player on the ground to provide quick ball would be great – but the key work is numbers, so that when you do drive over you’re not leaving the ball lying out of the ruck for the opposition to come through and steal it. A couple of guard dogs around the side of rucks wouldn’t go astray either. Again – numbers is the key. As for pick and go’s, if you’re going to line someone up to be a ball runner close to the ruck it generally pays to pick someone who is good at it. Those players are your front rowers (both starting and bench), Brad Thorn, and any of your loosies. It is not Isaac Ross, and it most certainly is not Jason Eaton.
If we committ numbers to the breakdown and provide quick ball, there is a chance – slim though it may seem – that the backline line may actually function. Certainly if they didn’t have to continually skirt forwards there may be a chance we could see some straight running that would commit the defence and give the wingers space when they hit the line, rather than the current lateral play that fizzles out by the touchlines. Or, rather than playing the flat backline against South Africa’s rushing defence we could stand a little deeper and employ the chip kick – allowing Donald the time to place the kick for our chasers.
The other option for our backs from set piece is to attack the No 10 channel where Morne Steyn has been found wanting – again, this relies on straight running and having support players right on your elbows. With McCaw and So’oialo both having plenty of speed to the intial breakdown, and the way that Franks, Hore, Woodcock and Thorn hit rucks that should be the no-brainer choice of play from scrums in the South African’s half of the field.
But are the All Blacks capable of taking a simple game plan to the field and executing it well? Watch this space.