Boks Drubbed At The Caketin
by Paul Waite
20 Jul 2002
After a lot of chest-thumping and proclamations from the Springbok camp during the week leading up to this test, the reality was spelled out to them to the tune of a 5-tries-to-2, 41-20 thumping here in Wellington tonight.
The thing is, the All Blacks, when they review the video of this test, won’t be patting themselves on the back too hard either. They struggled in the first quarter and looked to be in for a rough ride entering the second. It took a bit of luck and a bounce of the ball to get things rolling their way, rather than the kind of iron-grip control up front that Mitchell is ostensibly looking for.
The win was welcome, and we’ll take it no question. But you have to stand back and ask yourself how good the Springboks are. It has a lot of young talent, and a sprinkling of older players like Dalton, Krige, Terblanche and Skinstad, but it hasn’t played together in more than a few warm-up tests. It showed.
After an opening burst of “give it hell” rugby, their lack of variation and combination was shown up as the All Blacks found holes which shouldn’t have been there. That, and a kindly bouncing ball at a critical part of the test served to swing things the All Blacks way and allowed them to build a decent lead.
The worrying aspect to this game were the number of stupid mistakes made by the men in black. The South African try that came from a terrible miss-kick from Pretorious, which several All Blacks stood and admired before reacting to, then fumbled a gift of a seven-pointer was carved out of solid dumbfuck wood. Similarly, the defence was staunch and organised for a period, then players would fall off tackles and let the opposition steam through 30m upfield.
To their credit the All Blacks did these things without looking like letting too many points in, but it was genuinely flaky and lacked the kind of steady control that Mitchell is looking for.
But enough of the negative. Video anaysis by the All Black camp will no doubt focus in on these things and try to eradicate them.
Looking at the positives, you have to go no further than Scott Robertson. The lad played a blinder. One out of the box no doubt. Whether Skinstad was too busy combing his hair or looking good for the cameras, or was just outplayed is not clear. We saw him very clearly just before kickoff, smirking at the Haka, but after that he wasn’t to be seen much, and when we did spot him, he looked a bit more serious. What we do know is that Robertson ran rampant on attack, around the scrum and ruck, and creamed everyone in sight on defence. A HUGE game from him and definite Haka Man Of The Match.
Close on his heels was Richie McCaw. He had a keen battle with opposite van Niekerk for 40-50 minutes, but got on top in the end before being subbed for Broomhall once the test was safe. He got through a power of work, and managed to grab a crucial turnover ripping the ball right on the All Blacks line late in the fourth quarter.
In the scrum we competed strongly after initially looking shaky. The mauling was average to say the least, and defending the opposition maul the same. In the lineout we also had a mixed test. Initially Hammett threw some more bad balls in, losing us posession, but this came right. Later on Willis replaced him and this area looked suddenly much more solid, without any apparent loss in scrummaging power.
In the backs Howlett and Ralph combined well with Cullen and probed dangerously at times. Ralph especially will look back on this test as a good one. He was dangerous with the ball, always running well in support, and he defended excellently and intelligently. The midfield was fairly subdued, with Robinson being subbed in the first half for Umage, something which pleased the crowd no end, but which didn’t really offer us much more, if anything at all, on attack. Mauger at second-five also had a fairly quiet time, and was hardly noticeable except for the odd intelligent kick for territory.
Merhtens was his usual commanding self, and figured largely in this victory. His kicking for territory was excellent and once again he always looked to create something when he kept the ball in hand. Justin Marshall had a very good one at halfback, vindicating his choice over Kelleher. His defence was good and he provided just the right mix of running, kicking and passing to keep the opposition guessing.
All in all a win where the scoreline flattered the All Blacks. A score of 30-20 would have been more like it, going by performance, but as I’ve already side, we’ll take it, no question of that!by