I wasn't expecting that
Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Not even close.
All Blacks finally fronted up and started to play rugby at the kick off. Instead of just standing back and seeing what the opposition had to throw at us, they hit rucks, they smashed into the tackle and they did everything they could to actually get the ball in space to their potential game breakers - Clarke, Savea, Ioane, Jordan.
It was clear from the get go that they had something to prove. I thought Frizell was truly outstanding, relishing in his role to hit the line. Same for Samisoni who is really looking at being one of our core players to build a team around. We also seemed to put huge respect on getting over the advantage line. How many times were there small off loads to players in better positions? We kept the ball moving, we spun the ball from inside our 22 & we absorbed a lot of the Bok pressure.
I think the continual spinning of the ball was a tactic to negate the bomb squad. Hear me out. I listened for years as Bok fans have prattled on about how they have the two best front rows in the world. A 40 minute player is not, under any circumstance, a world class front rower. By us continually keeping the game moving, the large SA front row was stuffed after 30 minutes and 2 were subbed. This then gave us the edge as when we starting subbing ours, we were bringing on fresh legs against an (overweight) front row who had already played for 30 mins. A brilliant tactic which worked well.
Going through the positions, the outside backs were strong, Clarke’s missed tackle on Am aside (btw, how good is Am!). A couple of screw ups early on had me punching the couch with a “here we go again” feeling, but they seemed to be early teething.
Centres worked well, Ioane had his best game there and Havili did very well too. Certainly not perfect with some aimless passes at times, but no complaints overall. Not all agree, but I thought Mounga played a blinder with a couple of brain farts. His decisions were key to keeping that Bok front row moving around the paddock. Lots of huge punts pushing back 40 metres, followed by spinning it wide to take the next ruck 30 metres left. Smart.
Backrow were very settled and played off each either with 3 distinct roles. Frizell to run at the defence and smash tackles, Cane to be an absolute nuisance at the breakdown & Savea to be link man and go wide occasionally. It really worked.
In the locks, Barrett played a superb game as did Whitelock. To not concede one try from all the Bok throws in our 22 off line outs was a huge result. Shows a huge engine room effort there. Smart & tactically savvy. Front row, cometh the hour Mr De Groot! Couple of lost scrums on second shoves, but can’t reallly complain when they were 35-40 mins in against a fresh front row.
Thought the ref did a pretty good job, clear communicator and explained his calls. Block on Whitelock to reverse subsequent try after Am’s break I wasn’t overly comfortable with. Although I’m sure that last pass was forwards anyway. Was annoyed we got penalised when we shoved their scrum, but I’m no expert on these things. Gotta keep the game moving though. At one point a Bok front rower asked to do up his shoe lace … then took both shoes off, completely adjusted them then back on. This stuff is bullshit. End it, now.
The Springboks really do have a good team. Am is an absolute weapon, Pollard controls a game well and they have genuine pace in the back 3. I think they may look to review the bomb squad though. For my money, Marx is arguably the best player on the planet … it’s just wrong that he doesn’t start. PSTD doesn’t look the player of a couple of years ago for my money either. Etzebeth is a colossus though, not many players could man handle Savea the way he did.
Great match, had it all.