Kurtley Beale says the heightened pressure of a quarter-final won’t deter them from ‘having a crack’ from broken field situations in Wellington on Sunday.
The Wallabies have consistently punished the Springboks from situations where they’ve turned the ball over at the breakdown or where the defending champions have kicked poorly. With white-hot winger Digby Ioane back in the mix, their back three (Beale and James O’Connor completing the trio) has a formidable look about it, and along with Quade Cooper, they are equipped to inflict serious damage if allowed to.
Openside flank David Pocock is expected to be a force at the breakdown and the Springboks’ kick-chase method, if not executed flawlessly, will increase the opportunity for broken field surges. Beale said their first instinct remains to run it back, but stressed that assessing the intelligence of that decision quickly would be key to success.
‘They generally kick on you and back their defensive system to pressure you into penalties. It has always been a big tactic of the Boks. We tried to simulate that situation today in training and we’re pretty confident we can handle it when it comes,’ he said.
‘South Africa generally set a solid brick wall in front of you. When that’s the situation you generally kick it back, but where their line is unset and you can run at a couple of big forwards, we’ll have a crack.’
The Springboks have improved in their structural understanding and implementation of a new defensive system instituted by assistant coach Jacques Nienaber. It mimics the Stormers’ system exactly (Nienaber fill the same role there). Flyhalf Quade Cooper played in the Reds team who were one of the few to unlock the Cape side consistently, most notably through superb tactical kicking. However, Cooper said the Wallabies wouldn’t try to replicate that approach.
‘Our game plan with the Reds is a lot different to ours with the Wallabies, simply because we have the very best players in Australia available. Our approach with the Reds was tailored around the players we had. The Wallabies have a very different group with different strengths, so it makes sense to harness those.’
While the Wallabies are reluctant to kick away possession, Cooper didn’t dismiss the chance they may do so as a point accumulation tactic, through the drop goal. This hasn’t featured as a option for them to date, but the Reds did use it to their advantage in Super Rugby.
‘World Cups have been decided on drop goals and we have a lot of guys who can do it. The drop goals we kicked for the Reds weren’t necessarily aimed at winning matches. We used it to keep pressure on the opposition. If we’ve played through a couple of phases and had teams under the pump, the three points can be a buffer that serves you well later in the match,’ he said. ‘There may be a moment late in the game where we need one for the win, and if that moment comes we’re confident we have the response in the bag.’
The Wallabies have won five of their last six Tests against the Springboks. Cooper conceded that it makes them favourites, but stressed that the Springboks’ experience in winning play-off matches at the World Cup should be taken into account.
‘We do take an edge into the match because of past results. But they have the runs on the board in the World Cup, and [this generation] has never played them at a World Cup before.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Wellington.
Follow Ryan’s World Cup coverage on Twitter