Far out what a tough crowd haha. Of course we weren’t at our best, but the Boks didn’t allow us to get into any sort of rhythm, with their up and in lines peed and their constant pressure at breakdown time gave us no real opportunity to settle, as well as their up and under tactic which gave us the shits all night and didn’t allow us to play on the counter. We all know what the boks are about and their game plan worked a treat where guys like Akira were being forced into working hard in the tight with Savea. Blackadder was obviously our best loose tonight as it was his sort of test where the majority of the play was in the tighter channels. This is a great learning curve for us to not only come away with a good hard fought victory when being forced into playing a different style, but also for our younger forwards coming up against a big physical pack for the first time in their careers. They found it hard, but they’ll come out of it stronger.
Something that I didn’t like out there was us trying to create something off 1st phase at every set piece. Yes, it worked originally as we tried to speed the game up and caught De Allende and Am folding in on the decoy runners, but once they adjusted, we kept using it as our default play from set piece which the boks read quite easily which ended up forcing us into a high error count.
Havili needed to just crash more and set up play in a game like this instead of going through the same set moves which had less effect as the game went on, and he should have been getting the message about that too as Rieko could also have assisted with crashing I feel. We needed to play tighter when plan a wasnt working.
I notice Brad Weber getting a lot of love and he was good too, added a bit of energy out there, but also a special mention to Pat Tuipulotu. He was everywhere on attack and defence, proving that he can be a valuable bench option at test level. Its definitely where he’s best suited. Weber, Tuipulotu and Sotutu were easily our best coming off the bench, same can’t be said for Ofa though. He gave away penalties at scrum time, stupidly collapsed a rolling maul, and dropped the ball while hot on attack. They targeted him at scrum time and as did a lot if thing for the boks tonight, it worked! He may have played himself out of a spot for next week after that performance with Lomax hot on his heels.
Sadly for fern favorite George Bridge, he was a disaster, one of the worst performances I’ve seen, possibly the worst since the late Sione Lauaki against the Wallabies in 2008. I have never ever been a fan of Bridge but even I fell into the trap of picking him to diffuse De Klerk, Pollard and Le Roux’s high ball tactic and sure enough, it backfired badly. Having said that, I feel Reece would have had just as much of a torrid time out there so yeah, either way it was gonna be a tough night for our back 3, but the try he conceded was unforgivable as well as a few other simple bombs he put down. If ALB is fit next week, then Rieko can move to the left and Reece can move to the bench. I feel Reece could make a difference in the last 15-20 jn tight tests like these going forward. Again, we’ll learn from the experience as our back 3 would never have encountered such a tactic of excessive high balls in their lives. Maybe we could use the Boks tactic that they employed against Wales in the 2019 WC semi of surrounding the catchers with about 5 forming a circle haha. We wouldn’t dare do it, but we know that its coming, as does the whole world.
What we also have to remember is that this is a win against the World Champs without Whitelock and Aaron Smith, 2 of our most influential players. Smith’s service and game awareness alone would have given our forwards an extra split second to crash over the advantage line and negate the Boks speed off the line and would have forced the boks into retreating a bit more, which would have allowed us more time to create some phases, given our cleaners more time to support our carriers and allow us to dictate the pace of the game a bit more. As a result, they hammered us in the tight, we couldn’t string more than 1-2 phases at a time and we ended up going backwards a lot tonight as a result. He really is a huge loss to this side.
Huge credit to the boys for finding a way to win that when things were tough. We certainly look a lot more mentally tougher than previous seasons where we can find ways to win even in tough situations like tonight. We’re not there yet, but we’re slowly building into a world class team again.