RYAN VREDE analyses the key match-ups and picks the winner in Saturday’s Test.
Nothing that happened at Newlands was a surprise – not even the fact that the Springboks were patchy on attack and failed to bag the bonus-point. I don’t think that is going to be as decisive in the final analysis. That school of thought assumes that the Springboks will be close to New Zealand points-wise going into the final Test of the tournament in Soweto. This won’t be the case. The Blacks will already have bagged the title by then.
The Pumas will undoubtedly be buoyed by passionate home support and you can expect a reasonably strong challenge from their forwards. Their heavies would, however, have to make an exponential improvement in this facet of play to stand a chance of victory. That level of improvement is beyond them in a seven-day turnaround. One can also reasonably confidently assume the Springboks’ forwards would have made gains towards greater synergy.
Defence will be the root of their success, with their dominance there in general play ensuring consistently poor ball for a backline shorn of their most potent attacking weapon, Juan Martin Hernandez. Furthermore, the Springboks defied expectations that they would struggle at the set pieces and I don’t believe the Pumas will improve markedly in this regard. Halting the rolling maul will be a priority and much of this responsibility rests with Andries Bekker, whose reading of the defensive lineouts made the Pumas’ hookers resemble tanked-up darts players at times last week.
On attack, the inclusion of Jacques Potgieter at blindside flank will amplify the Springboks’ punch at the gainline, an area they dominated in Cape Town. This is important in light of what they lose in this regard with the absence of Bismarck du Plessis. The likes of Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth, Beast Mtawarira, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn will be central to getting the Springboks the momentum they need in the collisions to ensure the back division has the space and time to execute the course of action they deem most appropriate. That said, the ball protection at the breakdown was inconsistent at Newlands and they must remedy this shortcoming.
The Springboks’ halfback pair played well in their opener and Francois Hougaard in particular must replicate his largely accurate tactical kicking for the Springboks’ game plan to work as envisioned. I think it will, and while this victory won’t be as comfortable as what they achieved last week in terms of the physical examination they face, the scoreline will reflect the Springboks’ superiority.
VREDE’S CALL: Springboks by 12