Big bad Boks blew the house down

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. Now that the dust have settled after the big clash in Wellington and our wives has hopefully forgiven us for shouting and dancing so much in front of the guests, I wanted to take a closer look at the match and specifically how the Springbok approach to the All Black breakdown contributed to their victory.

For many people there is a debate over whether you must contest your opponent’s ball or not. I have my own opinion, but if we take a look at what the Boks did then we will get some interesting insights.

Above we see Taylor being taken to ground with du Toit in a good position to try for a slow or a steal. Instead, du Toit will leave the ball alone and recycle to his left. Many coaches will feel that this is a mistake and that we must take every opportunity to slow down our opponent because quick ball is so deadly. The All Blacks play out with lightning ball to their right.

What we see above is the very next moment. Crotty get the ball from Barrett, but before he can do anything he is wrapped up by the Bok midfield defence and the All Black options is killed in the cradle. The Boks was able to do this because they had enough numbers to be aggressive.

You can not be direct in defence or employ quick linespeed if you do not have enough defenders. By ignoring the breakdown, du Toit joined the line and gave his outside men the ability to attack New Zealand.

Have a look at the picture above. After a lineout New Zealand will go through six phases and end up far behind where they started. Each breakdown is marked from 1 – 6 and we can see how they either being met at the advantage line or getting caught behind it.

My friends at Rugby Analytics tell us that the All Blacks had 156 rucks against us, but that we only contested 25 of them. Rassie want his defenders on their feet and ready to shoot.

It was something that the All Blacks was not used to and did not like. Above we see the excellent Lukhanyo Am make a read on the centre Lienert-Brown.

Am shoot up out of the line and make a big spot tackle before the All Black options can take shape. We saw evidence of how uncomfortable this approach make the All Blacks by their uncharacteristic mistakes and often pointless kicks. And I believe one reason they became so narrow towards the end of the match when they needed to score was because they did not trust themself as much as they normally would.

Another advantage of not contesting at breakdowns was that we could use our extra men to frustrate New Zealand in other ways. One of their favourite methods to put you on the back foot is the “Pigs” call. This is when their forwards attack and make small “tip” passes to each other. It is normally quite devastating and in many ways it is the All Blacks “go to” play when they stuck, but the Boks was tactically ready for this and regularly hit the tip receiver back.

Above we see the lock Barrett receive a quick tip pass, but Kitshoff know it is coming and smash him. Again we see how the Boks numbers allowed them to do this.

So what does this mean going forward?

Firstly I do not believe this is necessarily a “default” approach. We actually saw the Boks sometimes going for a steal or a slow against the All Blacks and it may be that it purely depend on how good the opposition is at protecting their ball.

The All Blacks are very good, so therefore we contest less. Maybe against a different opposition there is more opportunities to attack the breakdowns and then we will do that. And we must not forget the presence of Louw and Van Staden in the group which show that the Boks still want the option to go that way if they want to.

Another thing is that we wonder how sustainable this style of play can be. For it to be successful your defence must be very physical. You can not just make tackles, you must make dominant tackles so that your defenders can rush forward. Otherwise they are continually jogging back and they have no linespeed.

Rugby Analytics tell us tell us that 107 of the Boks’ 220 tackles was double tackles (again, using that extra defenders) and that 59% of all their tackles was dominant. So it is a absolute physical battle, but we wonder how often you can repeat that and if it will take a “toll” on the players.

The Boks will also have to watch their discipline when they are this aggressive, as they gave away far too many penalties.

It will be interesting to see how the Boks play against Australia this weekend and how we approach the breakdown. What I would like to see is the same aggression and proactive nature of our defence, but that our players still has the awareness to play to the ball when the opportunity arise.

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • Andrew

    As an avid fan of both soccer and rugby its been interesting to note that both sets of supporters are engaging in the same debate about possession and the why teams that dominate possession don’t always win.

    For me a key statistic is look at the scoring opportunities that arise from the possession. From Ooms analysis its easy to see that the Bok defensive pattern was designed to limit the efficiency of the Allblack attack. They were forced to go through phase after phase without finding space. Ultimately the ABs were forced into a narrow direct game plan. Something the Boks are well equipped to deal with.

    The Boks did Klopp and used a gang press! They held their shape and forced the ABs into the channels they wanted to defend. What we need to remember is that although the Boks won this wasn’t a perfect plan or execution and we still conceded 6 tries.

    If you are a soccer fan you may have noted that Liverpool is often more dangerous against the top attacking teams. They press hard and when the opposition makes a mistake they counter attack.

    The real key in being able to win games using this sort of defense is the ability to transition from defense into attack. Two of the Boks tries came from intercepts where our speed of transition wasn’t tested.

  • Vossie

    Great Analysis Oom, and credit must surely go to Nienaber who had pinpointed where the AB’s were vulnerable and to come up with our defensive structures to upset the AB’s. The question is do we employ the same against Aus or other teams? Would like to give Faf credit for the way he defended, it was clear that he was free to come and go as he pleased and to make brave calls while defending, there’s a very good article on Rugbypass about what his role was with his NFL style defense.

  • Johan

    Good analysis Oom.
    However, and this is maybe a first time ever, I have to partially disagree.

    Contesting the ball is very important. Look at your second screenshot and remove du Toit from the picture.
    There are still enough defenders there to apply pressure and make the tackle, and he could potentially have won us a penalty or the ball before that.

    In my humble opinion, we surprised the ABs with our linespeed

    We were aggressive on defense in their faces and applied pressure, the first time we did that in years. Usually, we don’t employ so fast a line speed and the change was a masterstroke by Rassie.

    Now the big BUT:

    We had 25% possession.
    We had 21% territory.
    They kicked 33% successfully.
    With the aggressive defense, we still conceded 6 tries!

    If all kicks were successful the end score would have been 42 – 38.
    And no “stay on your feet”-argument can justify conceding 42 points.

    Now, I know territory and possession isn’t the be-all and end-all in rugby. But with those stats most of the time, you’ll lose.

    This is where you need a fetcher, a change to slow down, steal the ball or win penalties.
    Penalty count was 10 – 3 against us (and it wasn’t just the referee)

    Finally, I think our attacking should also be complemented.
    We scored 5 tries against the best team in the world with only 25% of the ball!

    A BIG well done to Swys de Bruin for this

    And a lot of egg on Zelim’s face, who wanted to fire Swys and get a kicking coach

    • John Comyn

      Apparently Pocock is back on Saturday so we will need to contest everything. Perhaps Marco would be a good starting option at 6?

      • Barry Smith

        Agreed, both Pocock & Hooper have immense impact in the loose! They’ll be a handful!

        • Dean

          Rassie should bring Marcell Coetzee in. He had the most steals of any player in his final season of Super Rugby. Plus, he is brutally physical and fearless. He’s a Schalk Burger type player.

          • Johan

            Bok flank Marcell Coetzee has been ruled out of action yet again after sustaining an injury against the Cheetahs last Friday.

            Coetzee returned to the field for Ulster at the beginning of the season after two injury-ravaged campaigns and has started in all four of their matches to date.

            But the club confirmed that the 27-year-old picked up a shoulder knock during their 39-39 draw against the Cheetahs

          • Sharky

            I agree 10000000%!! That’s a lot of percent…

  • John Comyn

    The Wallabies will be a better side for having Pocock and Falau back. Thanks for the assessment anyway.

    Off the subject – I am really happy Rassie has called up Ruhan Nel. He has everything going for him at center. He is big, fast, passes both ways, steps off both feet, defensively outstanding, and aware of spaces around him. He has played plenty of international sevens finals and will have no problem dealing with the pressure that comes with international rugby. He is about as close to Jacques Fourie as you will get. The question is will Rassie have the balls to play him!

    • Jettero

      I agree fully with Ruhan Nel at inside center. IMHO our centers is a weak point, predictable attack, missing first time tackles and knocking balls in good positions. Time to get the running inside centers that step through gaps as opposed to bashing the opposition to create a gap. As to your last sentence apparently not.

  • Wesley

    Great analysis Oom, this has always been the way to play the ABs, press hard on defence, and make them play narrow, a gameplan they don’t like at all. They like playing wide and tip-pass offloads till they create the space with everyone else drawn in on the ruck. Yes, they could have won if the kicks went through, but feeling like Barrett has an off day with boot when he doesn’t get the space he needs with ball in hand. Maybe a mental thing for him? It was a mental battle as well, Boks clearly winning it this time.

    Now with the Aussies and Argies, this gameplan in totality is not what you want to play. Tip passes and offloads in a loose game is the Argies best scenario, with their backs coming into the line more foolishly than what the ABs would, making spot tackles a bit harder to execute.Wales played it close on their Inbound tour and totally frustrated and starved Arg of the ball, and that is when their players get stupid, with bad disciplinary records for some players coming from this, and defences softening because of frustrations.

    Now Aus is a different beast, with breakdown dominance with players like Pocock and Hooper wanting to run the show, hoping to get quick ball to one or two of their playmakers. Individual brilliance seems is what they rely on as well, like Folau and Beale making a break or Genia sniping the ruck. You need to dominate their backs on defence, but pressing may not be the right call. It may result in a mix of both, reading the situation, but contest on the ball in the tackle when opportunity arises may be the starting point.Marx should be stepping up as second joining defender and should not be making first tackles unless absolutely necessary, with Marco the better fetcher option than Flo.

    Lets hope we can dominate this weekend, I felt we did last time in Brisbane, but botched all our attacking opportunities badly. Whoever kicks should also be in for a ding dong battle on the scoreboard.

  • Maxwell

    What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas. Next test to win. We need to focus on the next test. We need to play to our wings because the Aussies defense stop in the midfield. So if the gameplan is to plan forward and attack with Pollard . We’ll be playing in the Aussies favour. Take note

  • Ulrich

    A really great analysis Oom.

    I enjoy your content fully, but I wonder if AOR may expand into an Afrikaans sub-section as well to accommodate, what is clearly, your and many others’ preferred way to express themselves.

    Insluitend my eie.

    Something to think about AOR.

  • Greg Shark

    Nice analysis Oom BUT the Boks carried +235 tackles precisely because there was hardly any attempts at turn over ball. The reason may well not be as you describe, to allow psdt to fold around and give the outside backs more defence options. It may well be that the loosies that should have been on the ball were nowhere to be seen and that for me was the glaring picture of the game. Marx is too slow to be following for turn over ball and excels when the breakdown is close to him and the loose trio mix does not have an out and out fetcher. To take nothing aware from the trio that did well BUT 156 free rucks on another day will be 57 – 0! The loose trio needs to be much faster ruck to ruck and put a lot more pressure on the opposition. Just remember if the Boks don’t commit to attack turn over ball that means the opposition need not commit either and their backs can get very fast ball…..just some thoughts.

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