John Smit says it’s the execution of their kick-chase approach and not the game plan itself that is fundamentally flawed.
It seems the All Blacks coaching staff and media feel they have a pattern that is foolproof under the new breakdown law interpretations. This after one victory over the Springboks. What’s more, it appears that they view the Springboks’ kick-chase approach, which was central to their success in 2009 (and accounted for the Blacks thrice), as grossly outdated and seemingly feel the need to suggest that to their opponents at every given opportunity.
Certainly there were flaws in the system, not least of all the absence scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who punted teams into oblivion last year, and his successor, Ricky Januarie’s inability to replicate that excellence. But the manner in which the Springboks are being berated, albeit often in a veiled manner, for their preferred style of play is unfair.
Smith scoffed at the suggestion that the Springboks are playing stone age rugby in a modern world.
‘We’ve had a reasonable amount of success with the new laws in the Super 14 and the tests played this year,’ Smit said. ‘Everyone’s interested about the brand of rugby we try to play. We try to play the brand that’s necessary and the players that are selected.
‘It’s one that we change depending on who we play, but it’s one that we didn’t execute very well last Saturday and hopefully we can do that better tomorrow.’
The Springboks displayed their versatility last year by running Australia ragged in Perth, and while some concerns linger about the potency of their kick-chase pattern without Du Preez in the mix, they maintain that they undermined their own cause with their kicking inaccuracy and the lack of purposefulness from the chasing line.
Smit stressed that there is a belief within the squad that they would rebound in Wellington, and cited their dramatic 30-28 victory in Dunedin in 2008 (after losing in Wellington the previous week) as a source of their motivation.
‘It’s the experiences from that turnaround week that the guys will hold onto,’ Smit said. ‘I didn’t make that trip to Dunedin, but watching that game after the result here [in Wellington] it was pretty satisfying.
‘I can only imagine that the guys on that trip would have had those memories of what can be done and what should be done if you apply yourself, so it’s that which the guys will pull themselves towards tomorrow.
‘When you’re away from home and the expectation is on the home side to win and you want to change that, you have to do what you’re really good at well for 80 minutes,’ he added.
‘When you do that you give yourself the chance for the ball to bounce the right way. It was a dramatic win in Dunedin, but it came from a phenomenal chip and chase. Sometimes that bounce doesn’t go your way in away games, so you’ve got to force the situation yourself through your own tactics and own belief.’