Home Rugby Championship Wellington Test Raises More Questions Than Answers for All Blacks and Springboks

Wellington Test Raises More Questions Than Answers for All Blacks and Springboks

After an enthralling battle of attrition that ended in a draw between the All Blacks and the Springboks, Andy Daniel highlights the questions that have been raised for both teams.

599
0
South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit congratulates South Africa's Herschel Jantjies on his last minute try during the Rugby Championship rugby union match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, 27 July 2019. Photo: Steve Haag Sports


We knew that it would never be as good as last year’s offering in Wellington but a fairly uneventful encounter between these two old foes was no less intriguing.

Both teams can be annoyed with themselves for not winning this match for differing reasons but both coaches are pragmatic enough to realise that they have learnt some valuable lessons about their own squads.

The Springboks bounced out of the traps far spritelier than their opponents did but the ruthlessness that they needed to show in order to control the game will have worried Rassie Erasmus.

They had the upper hand for the first 35 minutes of this match and pressed hard at the New Zealand defence but they always looked liked they were playing slightly inside of themselves and weren’t willing to throw caution to the slight Wellington wind.

The ball wasn’t left in the hand too often and although they kicked tactfully very well, they kicked too much. Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies kicked the ball 11 times between them but TJ Perenara and Aaron Smith didn’t kick out of hand once.

The forwards were ensuring good ball for the backs but if penetration wasn’t made through the defence within a couple of phases, defensive mode kicked in and the ball was sent long or up into the sky. As I said, the kicking was generally very good but when you have New Zealand on the ropes you need to swing hard for a knockout, not jab them in the torso meekly. The visitors have the players to open any defence in the world but the Damian de Allende, Handre Pollard axis is not quite in sync and the Argentinian game will hopefully see Pollard start with Frans Steyn so we can see a more varied attacking style.

Cheslin Kolbe chips ahead for the equalising score during the Rugby Championship rugby union match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, 27 July 2019. Photo: Steve Haag Sports

The ultimate price was paid when Beauden Barrett tip toed down the right-hand touch line to set up Jack Goodhue for the first try of the game. The Boks went into the changing rooms a point down when they should have been 10-12 points in the clear.

Another nagging worry will be the lineout. It was laboured and telegraphed for the whole match. Every lineout became an event of its own. The men in green ambled to the mark, waited for themselves and their opponents to be ready to compete, then threw it in. They only lost one lineout but there was never an attacking threat off the top or from a rolling maul because clean ball just wasn’t available for De Klerk to utilise.

New Zealand march in to the lineout and the throw is delivered within a second or two of arriving. It’s viewed as a way of restarting the match rather than an over complicated set-piece.

The response in the second half was dogged and some previous South African sides would have crumbled but this one is made of sterner stuff and although they had little ball in the final 40, they won some key battles, especially in their own 22 and should they polish some of the above rough patches then they will go to the World Cup as a credible force.

Steve Hansen will be the most concerned of the two coaches after the draw.

Although they Kiwis lead at Half Time, they scarcely managed to string more than three passes together and were being stifled at the breakdown.

Richie Mo’unga didn’t play as well at stand off as Beauden Barrett did at full back but, as I mentioned after last year’s match, Barrett’s goal kicking cost them yet again. Two easy shots at goal went begging.

Outside of Mo’unga, Hansen will be praying that Ryan Crotty gets back to full fitness as soon as possible. Sonny Bill Williams looks like a shadow of his former self and other than one half decent offload he looked like a man with very little confidence as he turned his back going into contact on more than one occasion.

Crotty is a world-class all-round player that can not only take pressure of the fly-half but can also slot into that first receiver role and pull the strings. There is no doubt that the All Blacks are a better team when he starts.

Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane hardly touched the ball but when they did, they had nowhere to go. That’s testament to a solid Springbok defensive line but it’s also a worrying one for Hansen that his usually brutal attack is being diffused that easily.

TJ Perenara has nailed down the starting Number 9 shirt after another tenacious display and two turnovers that his back row may want to watch over again.

Beauden Barrett prepares to kick for goal during the Rugby Championship rugby union match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday, 27 July 2019. Photo: Steve Haag Sports

One of the plus points for Hansen was the performance of Barrett at Full Back.

The Auckland bound utility man was never far from the action and his positional play at the back was exemplary. The attacking threat he offers was for all to see in setting up Goodhue’s try and if fit, I think the New Zealand coaching staff would like to see Mo’unga partner his old Crusader teammate Crotty at 10 & 12 and Barrett at fullback.

Kieran Read again looked like he is struggling for match fitness but Hansen won’t be dropping him anytime soon. Against Australia, expect to see Read on the blindside flank with the more dynamic Ardie Savea at Number 8.

Both of these teams have just one more truly competitive match before they meet again in their World Cup opener to find answers to these questions and for the All Blacks especially, there seems to be a lot of those questions flying around.

 

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here