Robbie Kempson says the All Blacks won’t adopt a helter skelter approach like they did last year against the Springboks.
The Kiwis’ tactical naivete in the first encounter between the sides astounded many pundits, as they opted to run from all positions on the field in an attempt to not make contact as often as possible and avoid the Boks strengths, such as the lineout. The visitors were expected to be more pragmatic in Durban, but again they followed the Bloem template – without any success.
With Dan Carter back for the final hit-out of the year in Hamilton, the Blacks varied their game better, but their faltering lineout cost them in the opening half especially.
Former Bok prop Kempson believes the Kiwis would have learnt their lessons and will play a much smarter game this time around. The Stormers and Bulls – who make up the majority of the Bok squad – had unprecedented success against the New Zealand sides in this year’s Super 14, the former winning all five of their games, while the Bulls lost just one out of six against Kiwi opposition.
That loss came against the Blues, when the Aucklanders realised they had to play the Bulls at their own game, and they physically matched the South Africans at the collisions. Conversely, the Crusaders believed they had the blueprint to down South African opposition, but in the semi-final it backfired as they only served to put themselves under pressure by running from deep.
Even though this year’s law interpretations favour sides keeping ball in hand in their own territory and All Blacks wing Cory Jane says they’ll counter-attack as much as possible under the Boks’ aerial attack, Kempson feels the hosts won’t try loosen up the match from the outset.
‘The All Blacks know they’ll have to take on the confrontations first,’ Kempson told keo.co.za. ‘They’re known for swinging the ball wide, but they won’t do it from the start. The only way to beat the Boks is to confront them up front initially.’
The battle for gain-line supremacy is aided by who gets front foot ball at the set-pieces. Graham Henry lamented his side’s poor showing at the scrum against Wales, while the Boks hold a mental advantage over the Blacks at the lineout due to last year’s dismantling of the set-piece by Victor Matfield.
‘I don’t think the Bok scrum will dominate, as many people think,’ said Kempson. ‘Our front row isn’t at their best yet and is still one of the weaker parts of our game because we don’t have continuity in that aspect. Both sides would assume the scrums will be 50-50 and we’ll have to wait and see what happens there as you can’t read too much into what the All Blacks did against Wales.
‘The All Black lineout has improved, but no one compares to Victor. We should dominate them there, and our loosies will also edge it.
‘Overall, that battle up front is key, but in both sides’ cases, they’re not as strong as they’d want to be.’
The Boks have a brilliant opportunity to strike another blow to the Kiwi psyche in Auckland, but Kempson doesn’t foresee the Boks repeating last year’s feat of defeating the Blacks three times.
‘I don’t think we’ll win both Tests there,’ he said. ‘We have the best squad South Africa’s assembled and what they’ve achieved is tremendous, but we won’t repeat last year’s results. Especially with the amount of pride at stake on the All Blacks’ part.
‘It’s always tough in New Zealand, especially the first Test. As Richie McCaw’s said, they’re ranked the No 1 side in the world and no one’s given them much credit for it. They’ll really be up for the challenge.’
By Grant Ball