Gary Gold expects the All Blacks to use a strategy reliant on accurate line-kicking and field position when they play the Wallabies.
The team that toured South Africa was an abomination. The Springboks were the smarter and stronger side, but in many instances they punished an All Blacks’ unit devoid of structure and savvy.
Graham Henry’s most recent team selection suggests he got it wrong in South Africa. The make-up of his team also suggests he is desperate for a turn-around, as Dan Carter and Luke McAlister have been rushed back into the starting team.
The pair are renowned for their playmaking abilities, but it is their kicking attributes that will come under scrutiny in Saturday’s Test. After a structureless approach backfired dreadfully against the Boks, the All Blacks are looking to play smarter.
Gold, the Springboks’ forwards coach, said he’s not surprised. It’s a strategy that’s worked for them during their four-year reign as Tri-Nations champs, and it’s a formula that proved potent during Robbie Deans’s legendary stint with the Crusaders.
The common denominator, of course, is Dan Carter.
‘Carter’s going to be pivotal in this Test, he’s pure class,’ Gold told keo.co.za. ‘His return will give New Zealand a lot of confidence, they’ll be more of a force now that he’s back at the helm.
‘I expect they’ll play a smarter kicking game and we won’t see them playing with the gay abandon they did when in South Africa. Carter’s return will ensue their kicking game is a lot more accurate, and with Luke McAlister at No 12, New Zealand have the benefit of a left-foot/right-foot combination.
‘The Crusaders had the best kicking game in the Super 14 when Carter was there, and the All Blacks may look to play a similar brand.’
Australia have their own formidable left-right combo in Matt Giteau and Berrick Barnes, but at the back they don’t have the kicking game to match Mils Muliaina or Cory Jane.
Gold, however, said it would be unwise to underestimate fullback James O’Connor.
‘I can’t say his kicking is bad; he’s done so little of it so it’s difficult to judge whether it’s bad or not.
‘O’Connor’s a slippery character, one of the best counter-attacking players in the game at present. You can’t really afford to target him, because it may backfire.
‘However, I still think the All Blacks will look to pin the Wallabies in their own half.’
The forward battle should be an absorbing one, and Gold said the Wallabies’ scrum should not be taken lightly. The lineout on the other hand could go either way given both teams’ shocking performance in recent Tests.
‘I was particularly surprised because I rate the Australian lineout very highly,’ said Gold. ‘Victor Matfield did a lot of work ahead of those matches, and so far it has paid dividends, but we did expect them to be more accurate.’
The Bok forwards coach couldn’t pick a winner, but pointed out that Australia may be under more pressure given no side has lost a home match in 2009.
‘The Australians may be more desperate, but I don’t want to say they’ll win.
‘I don’t know what the permutations are and who we’d prefer to win or lose [to help consolidate our log position]. I suppose a 3-3 draw would be the best result for the Boks.’
By Jon Cardinelli