All Blacks exploited tiny margins

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. The loss to the All Blacks on Saturday gave us two conflicting emotions. The Boks played brilliant rugby but then made silly mistakes to lose the match. It is like if our mother-in-law drive off a cliff in our favourite car – we are happy, but we are also sad.

There is talk that the substitutes cost us the game but I am not sure if that is the case. Certainly the Boks lost focus at the end, but that can also happen if players is tired. So do you swap players or not?

And a closer look actually show us that errors was made by the subs and the other players, so I think it is more a case that the team as a whole did not have the right mindset to “close” the game.

To that regard, let us look at a specific moment that illustrate this inability to close. I do not mean to victimise any player here, and I am not saying this moment alone cost us the game, but it is a good example of how our mentality and decision-making must improve when it matter most. Let us take a look…

Let us start by looking at a moment from earlier in the match. There is ten minutes left and the All Blacks is showing the Boks right here how they will win the game. Simply, they started contesting heavily at the Bok breakdowns. The result was that they won turnovers at crucial times at the end because we did not protect the ball. Above, the prop Tuungafasi get to the ball before our cleaners Louw and Du Toit and win the penalty. It was a warning shot that the Boks did not listen to.

Now In the picture above we get to the critical chain of events. There is just over 3 minutes left. The Boks is leading the game and they have possession. You MUST be able to win from here. This is where on-field leadership and calm decision making is needed. Pollard carried the ball up, Beast cleaned excellently, and now we can see Papier is arriving at the ball. Everything is set up for the Boks to slow the tempo, set their carries, and run out the clock.

Except above we see that Papier decide to go for a break. In the normal flow of a game this will maybe be fine, but for reasons we will soon see this is the wrong time to do it. The space he saw closed very quickly and he almost get stripped of the ball by two defenders. Such is the pressure nature of Test rugby. This moment above is the first domino to fall.

The Boks manage to save the situation, but as we see above Snyman must now play scrumhalf. This is the second domino to fall. Because what we want when we are running down the clock is for our 9 to organise play. He have three specific jobs: he must slow the tempo, organise his forwards and set the right targets. Instead Papier is at the bottom of a ruck, and nobody else take charge of the situation.

Above we see that the forwards has not been set properly. Koch will receive the ball, but the only support close to him is Du Toit, with Kolisi still jogging into position. If we want to protect the ball at all costs then we want two forwards latched on to the carrier.

As Koch carry the ball we see another domino falling. His body height is not low enough, so he can not dictate the terms during contact. It is harder to fall in the correct way, harder to do the extra “fight” on the ground, and harder to place correctly. But even more important to note here is that when you running down the clock the carrying player must not carry for gains, he must carry for ball security.

The correct thing for Koch to do at this stage of the match is to prioritise going to ground sooner, and on his terms. But he pump his legs and go deeper into trouble.

A very important contribution is now made above by Scott Barrett. It is a tiny thing that will win the All Blacks the game. Barrett join the tackle on Koch, come around, and then manage to push Pieter-Steph off his latch on Koch. It is a crucial moment that will set the scene for the big trouble to come

We can see above that Pieter-Steph falls down first, and then Koch fall on top of him. This is not ideal – it must be the other way around! And the final nail is that in the absence of the sealer Du Toit, Siya is one millisecond too late to beat the excellent Savea to the ball. The All Blacks will get a penalty when Koch don’t release, kick for the lineout, and score to win the match.

There many reasons I wanted to talk about this moment above. Firstly it is just interesting to see the tiny margins that can win or lose a test match.

Secondly I wanted to talk a bit about technique and the way we must play if we want to truly protect the ball and beat the clock. I also wanted to make a mention of the Springbok naiveness and perhaps lack of leadership and organisation as the game go down the home stretch.

There is a specific gear a team must go into if they want to close out a game, and the Boks did not go into that gear. On a tactical level as well, the All Blacks was starting to target the Springbok rucks but the players did not adapt.

In a match with many turning points, this for me was a key moment because the Boks was right on the doorstep of victory. So well done to Rassie and the group for how far they have come this year. This was a hard lesson to learn, but I hope it is one that they never forget.

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

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • PD

    Excellent analysis as always Oom. Hard lesson to learn – but could make the difference to closing out key games later. What was amazing in Wellington was that they showed the mindset to win and pull it through – would have been great to build on that

    • Andrew

      “Whispers very quietly” Boks had a different captain on the field in the last 20min in Wellington…

      • Herman Schroder?

        Amen to that. Cheers.

  • dbaggins

    Thanks oom
    Hard lesson indeed

  • Herman Schroder?

    So correct Oom. I still believe we lack creativity, skills, rugby nous and mental strength and the result may have set us back further than some would like to think. The demeanor at the final whistle was not only one of utter disappointment at having blown the handsome lead but that the old enemy had once again triumphed despite us having a real opportunity to put the knife in. The players would have said ‘oh no not again’ and recalled the many times this had happened in both SR and test matches these past four years. Remember the Wellington test was won through two missed conversions while we blew it from an almost impregnable position with everything to lose in front of our home crowd. Let’s hope it’s not terminal.

    Another point is how come we had players with cramp, ‘too tired to play on’ and losing focus due to fatigue ? The AB’s had a sewn up RC under the belt, travel fatigue, altitude and a hostile crowd yet were rampant in the final 15 minutes ? Is conditioning a problem once again ?

    I watched RG in those final minutes. When the AB’s were on our line he was standing about a metre behind the ruck instead of creating a defensive pillar. on the line. When Savea eventually scored it was only Mostert who tried to stop him. Mostert had been on for 80 minutes. RG about 25 minutes.

    Another example D’Allende and the Ioane try. Ioane just managed to plant the ball in the very corner. Yet if you watch it again DDA gives up the chase too early. He could well have corner flagged him with his pace, size and hopefully forcing a mistake. DDA has defensive issues and this was a prime example of his natural mindset. As Oom rightfully said, on small things do winning or losing a test depend, indeed. Cheers.

    • Stanley

      So, not right captain or these small mistakes you are highlighting? I tend to think that because Siya was not captain at the end of Wellington test we won, but lost at home as WW was’nt captain. Uhmmmmmm ……… we have a loooooooooooong way still to go. FYI: I prefer Wharren to be starting as number 8 and also captain the team at the WC because he is my favorite player

      • Herman Schroder?

        Stanley I think you misread my point. WW is the man for me, has great leadership qualities, courageous, skillful and most importantly has that rare quality so hard to find among SA players, rugby nous. Cheers.

  • Arch Rautenbach

    Excellent analysis Oom. Guess it comes back to inexperience from the players, and especially the replacements. Not blaming anybody with saying that (okay maybe Rassie, but he didn’t really have another choice) because the only way to get experience is to be on the park. Yes it was a loss at the end of the day, but the players picked up invaluable experience that will serve South Africa well in the future. Once again proving the article from Gavin Rich trying to tone down this match between the two arch rival was hogwash.

  • Barry Smith

    Thanks Dan a good read!
    Sorry but there were too many glaring sub errors that we have not touched on here and the change in momentum coincided directly with them coming on.
    One certainly does not want to berate players, but it would also be wrong to tip toe around problems. This was a game that we had in the bag!
    The Van Zyl issue you have mentioned highlights the inexperience of the player. That is not his fault, he only has a partial Super Rugby season to his name, but the question should be asked, why was he selected then? Would Ross Cronje have made that mistake – I don’t think so!
    There was also the issue of the ball that nonchalantly trickled into touch a few metres from the trie line that led to 7 points against – where was Willemse?
    I also question why we played Koch in this test and not against Australia? I get that they wanted to try him out, but surely not against the AB’S. You have highlighted the mistakes he made, but there was also the dropped scrum to add to his woes!
    In the last two clips in the final few minutes of the game in the thick of forward battle, won’t some one point out where Notshe is please?
    The reality is that our Bench, by and large, were not up to the task and we need to address that and not tip toe around it!

    • Chris Mouton

      You make a few valid points. Yes, Papier should’ve played it to a pod of forwards, but I think he was eager to impress as he hasn’t had a lot of game time. We need a better scrummie than him. We have a massive problem at scrumhalf. Yeah, Willemse’s positioning was crap and Domjan die Ellende should’ve covered Ioane from the beginning and not get sucked in. I also would’ve played Koch against the Aussies than against NZ. In my opinion he didn’t bring much to the table. I’ve said from the beginning that Dan du Preez should’ve been chosen instead of Notshe. Nothse is a lightweight. It’s not as if he’s making a name for himself even during Super Rugby. Dan du Preez is on form, is powerful and has a great offloading game. Let’s see what happens on the EOYT. The Boks have now set the standard that they can play and now we need consistency.

  • Chris Mouton

    Excellent analysis, Oom. Here’s to hoping that the Springboks keep improving and building on their performance to become a complete product. One thing these two tests against the All Blacks did was to show the world that they’re not immortal. You can bet on Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt having paid full attention to these two games. The EYOT is going to be very interesting.

    • Chris Mouton

      Sorry, I meant EOYT.

  • JFK

    It is an excellent point. I also feel that if our Nr9 kicked less of those hated, useless kicks from the base, then we would’ve had more possession and the opposition would’ve had less time to score. Why do we continue to kick those 50/50 kicks, and especially against the All Blacks? Everyone can see that it’s NOT working and only costing us possession and we have to defend at least 10 phases, and most of the time concede point as a DIRECT result of the kick. We have the ball, why would we gift it away? It does not compute in my mind at all. I said it before, if we don’t kick we will win. We kicked the first game vs AUS and they scored immediately from the kick, we lost. We didn’t kick against NZ and won, we didn’t kick so much against AUS and we won. Then we decided to kick, kick, kick against NZ and we lost. They were so far behind that we decided it’s time they had the ball for a while. I cannot understand the logical thinking behind this, you cannot win a game of rugby I you gift the ball to the opposition! *My heart is still broken

    • A Gerber

      So right .. we have seen the boxkick lead to scoring by the oposition to many times now.Why is it the prefered option on our own 25 .In the 61st minute of the game that boxkick … that try … started the AB comeback. Is it Faf or Rassie that refuses to change this plan.????? At least Faf shows all in advance when he is planning the kick… to allow us to yell at the TV. nòooooo!!!!!

  • Roland

    I know I am going to get crucified for saying this but Kolisi as the captain should take charge. I have watched the last three games that he has played in with a lot of detail. He is the most ineffective loose forward that we have. He never does the basics right. He may have a few moments in the game but his general play is absolutely shocking.

    He seem to loiter behind the breakdown all the time and never seem to know where to position himself. The fact that he is our fetcher, he should have been able to push Savea off the ball or at least seal it, but he is so far behind the contact area and way to slow and weak to push the player of the ball.

    I don’t think he adds any value in his general play or the basics.

  • Rodney Johnson

    Roland I am sure you didnt feel Siya was weak when he bumped a Prop to send Damian De Allende to score. Maybe Siya is not the Worlds best fetcher, guys like Pocock, Richie McCaw and Hooper are on a different level. SA doesn’t have flankers who are real fetchers accept Malcolm Marx lol. I think Du Toit is not a flanker as well and a better lock forward. So that can make room for a guy like Jean Luke Du Preez

  • Babman

    Oom is correct in his analysis and great to also hear what rugby geniouses are about. I will get some stick for the next comment i think, but “what” would the game have looked like with “Jaco Kriel” as open side flanker……..(speed, brains and steals)????

    • Stanley

      there i can agree or even Kwagga. With the 30-test cap ‘rule’ out of the way (or is it?) Kriel can still go to the WC

  • Baxter

    I honestly thought when our box kick went up and SA secured the ball i was like “this is it, we’ve lost, they will just keep the ball in the forwards and thats it, we lose” But as you so excellently described above, it was the failure to execute those small things to close out the game that championship teams are able to do. Likewise I think the decision to keep the ball in the forwards and grind out tries by NZ was a direct learning from Wellington, as they could have won the game the same way but their instinct was to spin it wide.

  • Achmat Esau

    All Blacks captain Kieran Reid summed up the victory when he described the mindset of the AB’s within the last 10 minutes of the game. This correspondence with views he expressed more than a season back. The AB’s play 80 minutes + if required. They can “feel” when the opposition runs out of puff. It is reflected in the “tackling and running energy” felt in the contact areas. The Springboks ran out of steam while he AB’s grew in stature. Kieran was confident the game was there for the taking in those final 10 minutes. Have a look at the AB’s huddling in the last 10 minutes. This is what makes AB’s a great team. Had the referee listened to the touch judge in Wellington, it would have been the same story… a win for the All Blacks. That also happened in the dying moments of the game. Two Springboks were called off-side…

  • Dean

    Rather they learn this now than in a World Cup knockout game or final. I hope we can win at least 3 out of the 4 EOYT games. The biggest challenge for this team is winning away from home. They have only done it once out of 3 occasions this year.

    • Albert

      Let’s be honest here, any team that pushes New Zealand like the Boks did should be aiming to win all 4 EOYT matches. Anything less will be a failure in my opinion. We can’t return to the Coetzee era of accepting mediocrity. Do New Zealand ever say 3 out of 4 is good enough? Nope. 4 out of 4 is the goal, and I will be judging Rassie on and his men on that. England, France, Scotland and Wales. Those 4 teams are not great, and we need to get to 3rd on the rankings behind the brilliant Irish and next level Kiwis. Everyone else should be scared to face the Boks.

      • Stanley

        Agree. Even beating the AB’s home and away should not be good enough if we lose 2 games against European competition. We won’t be playing the AB’s every game in the WC. We all seem to forget that this marvelous team lost against a poor Aussies team as well as Argentina. NZ is the benchmark, but we can’t be aiming to beat them (only)

  • Carey

    Great article and analysis. I would like to add just two things: in the 67 minute we got a scrum from Barrett’s fwd pass, this placed Pollard directly in front of the poles, surely a drop kick opportunity? Secondly when they kicked for the touch line with 3 minutes to go and got that lucky bounce, why didn’t the first arriving player take a quick throw in and wind down the clock?

    • Chris

      Kick was from a penalty.

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