Watching the All Blacks dismantle the Springboks yesterday morning, it was difficult to keep from being overwhelmed by a rising sense of panic. They ran in eight unanswered tries, posted a record winning margin – 57-0 – against the Bokke and these guys are coming to Murrayfield in just one month’s time. You can be sure that Gregor Townsend with his usual thoroughness will study the tape forensically even if the Springboks’ dire performance will only give him clues as to what not to do.
Here are four lessons the Scotland coach will have learned.
1 Win your set-piece: South Africa come with a fearsome reputation in this department but after dismantling the New Zealand pack in one of their own scrums to earn a penalty, the final statistics tell a very different story.
New Zealand won all seven of their own scrums. South Africa won six and lost three. They were not shoved off the ball but they were instead penalised by Nigel Owens for going down or for wheeling the scrum (“running round”).
Their 50 per cent scrum performance makes their lineout look almost respectable. In this department they lost five of 14 throws, managing just a 64 per cent success rate.
Overall they won just 12 of their 20 set-piece plays (ignoring the restarts) although they did nick a couple of Kiwi throws.
2 Take your chances: The Bokke didn’t trouble the score board but it wasn’t as if they didn’t have opportunities come their way, they just failed to nail them.
As early as the opening exchanges which the visitors dominated, South African Elton Jantjies had a simple enough penalty opportunity from 40 odd yards out…meat and drink to most Test kickers but the standoff was wayward and short. Instead of sowing a seed of doubt in New Zealand minds, we saw the Kiwis eventually breaking that early Saffa stranglehold and it was Beaudon Barrett who claimed the first points for the home side, settling any early nerves and laying the foundation for that runaway victory.
You don’t beat the All Blacks by one moment of magic, rather by the constant application of pressure on the park and on the score board.
3 Play hard but play smart: There was no question over the effort by the South Africans, especially up front where skipper Eben Etzebeth was outstanding, always making yards with the ball in hand even when he had no right to.
But against New Zealand you need to play smart as well as hard. Time and again the Bokke forwards lined up a man in black and went flying in for the big hit. It will inevitably appear on a Youtube highlights package but it also means that the defender is on the floor and out of the game, whether or not he has nailed his man.
Moreover the big dominant tackle does not necessarily stop the offload. The likes of Sam Cane was driven backwards and still popped the ball off the floor to do what the Kiwis do best…keep the move alive.
4 Make your tackles: This isn’t exactly news but this match underlined the vital importance of making your tackles against the All Blacks who are deadly once they have broken that first line of defence.
A couple of the South African backs did not look particularly interested in their defensive duties and winger Raymond Rhule in particular missed more tackles than he made and surely played himself out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. Overall the Boks managed just 66 of the 99 tackles they were asked to make on the day for a completion rate of 67 per cent. That is asking for trouble and they got a whole heap of the stuff yesterday evening in Albany.