RYAN VREDE looks at the trends that could shape the Dunedin Test, with the stats suggesting the Springboks will struggle.
The facet of play most lamented among Springbok supporters. Heyneke Meyer’s kick-chase approach has failed to work in the manner he has envisioned and the widely held view is that the Springboks have no Plan B, or at least a very ineffective one. Flyhalf Morné Steyn has kicked the 30% of the time he has taken the ball at first receiver – this compared with the All Blacks’ 16%. The Blacks’ flyhalves have passed the ball nearly 68% of the time, while Steyn is down at 56% and runs the ball 13% of the time. The pace, precision and skill with which the Blacks attack has been their strength. Ominously, the Blacks have broken more tackles than they’ve made kicks and have broken more tackles than any team in the tournament. Furthermore, they have made the most successful offloads and clean linebreaks in the tournament, which has been central to their attacking success. The Springboks pale in comparison in these attacking disciplines.
It is critical that the Springboks boss the gainline and breakdown in a bid to slow the Blacks’ recycle. Their previous showings in the latter have been poor, while their tackling was mediocre at best against Australia in Perth (it had been good before that). The inclusion of Francois Louw at openside flank is a good one, but his effectiveness rests heavily on the team’s gainline punch. The Springboks average nearly 16 missed tackles per game. Their previous opponents haven’t possessed the capacity to punish them in the manner the Blacks will. They simply have to cut down this figure. The Blacks miss around 11 tackles per match, but very few of those in their 22m. The platform the Springboks’ heavies lay will be crucial if they are to break down this efficient unit.
In the absence of any attacking creativity or flair, the Springboks will rely heavily on their kick-chase to pressure the All Blacks into penalties and build their score in that manner. However, tellingly, the Blacks’ discipline in their 22m has been exceptional, with the bulk of their indiscretions coming in the zone between their 22 and halfway line (and most of those closer to halfway). Morné Steyn’s goal-kicking form has been inconsistent and from those distances his accuracy will be compromised. Frans Steyn’s gun-boot may be the alternative, although he too hasn’t been too accurate (3 from 8 attempts). The Blacks will want to improve on their penalty count in the opposition’s 22m (24% of their total penalties have been conceded in that zone), while the Springboks are slightly better at 21%. However, they are close to 30% in the zone between the opposition’s 22m and halfway. The Springboks’ biggest problem has been their turnover rate in the red zone, which stands at nearly 43%. That has contributed significantly to struggles and is a facet of play they must improve exponentially to stand a chance of victory. Notably, the Blacks are far better at protecting the ball in this zone, which accounts for their superior try tally. The Springboks have also stolen painfully little (6% of their turnovers) in this area.
George Clancy is averaging 3.5 scrum resets per game and is handing out 4.5 scrum infringements (pens and F/K). On average 79% of the time it will be conceded by the defending team. Clancy is handing out an average of 20 penalties per game with the bulk of those coming at the breakdown. On average 7.0 penalties will be inside the 22 and 7.0 penalties will become kicks at goal.