Richie McCaw says the All Blacks will make improvements at the breakdown and lineout and consequently ask more telling questions of the Springboks.
Those were the two facets of play the Blacks struggled in in Bloemfontein, and ultimately severely impacted their chance of victory.
The lineouts were a shambles, as they had been a week prior against Australia. There they managed to secure the win despite their ineptitude, but in Bloemfontein Springbok lock Victor Matfield tormented them and in so doing largely robbed them of a primary attacking platform.
McCaw acknowledged their struggles in this facet of play, but was confident the work they’ve put in to address those struggles during the build up will see them improve.
‘Old story, you lose a couple and everyone gets a bit twitchy, that’s what happened last week. We need to be good enough to just keep backing what we’re doing even when one doesn’t go the way we wanted it to. Last week we allowed it to get to us and that was frustrating, but there’s no need to panic,’ McCaw told keo.co.za.
Hooker Andrew Hore was visibly shaken by Matfield’s ability to crack their codes, and was later substituted in favour of Keven Mealamu, who didn’t fare much better. He said the key to nullifying Matfield was to make a good start and vary their play.
‘If you lose the first couple [of lineouts] your confidence falls to pieces,’ he said. ‘There is space there, the key is to identify it, and for the jumpers and myself to lay down a marker early.
‘When his [Matfield's] confidence is up he’s hard to stop. That’s why it’s key to start well and adapt to whatever contesting strategies he brings.’
In Bloemfontein McCaw was expected to stifle the flow of the Springboks’ attacking play because of his prowess at the breakdown. Instead, his rookie counterpart Heinrich Brussow made a more significant contribution to his team’s success by edging their ground level duel.
‘Brussow played well and he was allowed to as the tackles were stopping us from getting over the advantage line. That makes it easier for a flanker to have an impact and he played pretty well,’ McCaw said.
‘He put pressure on our ball and turned up at the right spots. Team’s nowadays have players like that and you have to keep him under control. The key is obviously to front up in contact and dominate at the collision points, and we’re pretty confident we can do that.’
McCaw added that it was crucial that they applied sustained pressure to the Springboks, and tested their mettle in a manner they weren’t able to last week.
‘When I look back at the game, we just vital mistakes the whole way through and that didn’t allow us to apply pressure on the Boks,’ he said.
‘There was a stage when we did get things going but one or two mistakes cost us and you can’t afford to do that. We need an 80 minute effort.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Durban