My take on the game between New Zealand and South Africa
It was certainly an interesting week reading and listening to all the media who were talking up the Boks as though each and every one of them was a new Superman and how they were all so strong and so brilliant and that NZ would be in trouble. Some people seemed to almost be anointing them as RWC winners already. This seemed to be based on two things; firstly, the way their “B team”, or “2nd team” or whatever had done so well against Australia and secondly, because a few years ago they sent players to NZ early and they won the RWC on the back of it. So how did that all work out?
Now I didn’t really get that involved in the discussions, I didn’t think a lot of it was relevant for a start and secondly I thought enough people had been smashing the Wallabies so I didn’t want to add to that. To be totally honest, while I was always picking an AB win for this game, I did think it was going to be a tough one that would determine whether Foster and his assistants had moved on from last years problems and whether last week actually meant anything with an Argentinian team who had only been together for a short time. I didn’t see the game live as I was refereeing a late game a long way away and by the time I got home, showered and changed, it was time to leave for the Wallabies game in Parramatta. I did hear the score and managed to see a clip of Aaron Smiths first try though. So I watched the game this morning after a good nights sleep.
For me the game absolutely made a statement. It was a convincing win that answered a few questions from last week when the ABs really let Argentina back into the game. Overall the ABs dominated most of the game except for the 3rd quarter when the Boks inserted their “Bomb Squad” into the game. The best part of the game for me was the way they rode this quarter out, used their subs intelligently and took back control at the end. The start the ABs made was fantastic, high pace, accurate fast passes, good decisions by players putting each other into space and some brutal attacking play that was aptly demonstrated by Frizzell punching over Willie Le Roux in a Jonah like moment to score. The forwards dominated the contact and were giving fast ball to Aaron Smith who threw accurate fast passes that players could run onto and keep the momentum going. Mo’Unga seemed to have the game on a string as he took different options and kept the Boks guessing as to what was going to happen. Some of the questions that I thought the ABs answered today were:
- Fast ball with accurate passing will beat most defence and provide an ongoing momentum that is hard to stop.
- You can beat the rush defence by playing fast ball with players carrying into space and using footwork rather than brute force in the contact.
- Holding onto possession for a long period is better than being forced to make lots of tackles. (On the 17th minute the Boks had made more than 50, the ABs had made 4)
- The ABs had a very well executed kicking game that they used as an attacking weapon, especially in the 1st half.
- The ABs used their replacements well to get a 2nd wind and slow, then stop the effect of the Boks “Bomb Squad”. When this first came on the Boks changed to the set piece to set piece game they seem to love and excel at, but the ABs were able to keep patient, soak up the pressure and then change up a gear again to continue the dominance.
There were a number of big moments and confirmations in this game. Shannon Frizzell appears to have finally started to deliver on his promise as a No6 that not only hits the ball up, but dominates in defence as much as in attack. Will Jordan is an outstanding player who always poses a threat to the opposition. Reiko Iaone seems to have finally started to play the 13 game and use his skills to provide the space for others (he also showed good defence) The Barrett brothers have cemented themselves as first pick at 4, 12 and 15 and all of them made a huge positive impact on the game.
Still a few things to improve on though. I thought the game speed slowed down a lot when Christie came on and I hope Roigard gets game time in the next couple of matches. The slower game wasn’t just Christie as it was also when some of the forwards changed and the replacement players still need to develop more intensity. There was some good movement of the ball between the forwards but constant charging into defenses on the line isn’t a winning tactic and they need to have a wider view and look at options that appear. However, these are minor and for the most I was pretty happy.
The biggest win for me though was the signal the ABs have sent to the rest of the world. They have definitely moved on from last year and seem to have learnt the lessons they needed to learn. NZ still has depth ion most positions that other teams would die for and they seem to be able to bring in the players with the right attitude to continue the legacy that has gone before.
I am looking forward to the next 2 games. I’m pretty sure Jones will motivate the Wallabies to a level they haven’t played at yet this year and I think that, certainly in Melbourne, they will be more of a threat than they have shown so far this year. However, I’m also confident that the ABs can match that play and continue to move.