New Zealand’s leading rugby writers were unanimous in their applause of the Springboks and in the reality check for the All Blacks in a defeat that leaves the men in black with more questions than it provided answers, writes Mark Keohane.
NZ Herald Gregor Paul
South Africa have provided the perfect measuring stick: a true gauge for the All Blacks to assess which parts of their game are working and which are in need of major attention.
They have their answers now and while it was sobering, probably galling at times, to be cleaned out at the lineout so often and buckled at the scrum the way they were, these are issues the All Blacks can reasonably expect to fix. And fix them quickly and effectively.
Across 160 minutes of rugby, the Springboks exposed too many cracks in the All Blacks’ set-up, none more patent, than at the set piece.
It was scrum and particularly lineout where there was daylight between the two teams and it was here, in these two-old fashioned arts, that the Springboks built their second test victory.
The set piece was like a computer virus for the All Blacks. The Springboks got their bug into the system as it were by outsmarting the All Blacks at the lineout and out-powering them at the scrum, and from there the malware travelled to the breakdown, to the collision and just about through the entire eco-system.
The All Blacks need a set piece system reboot. They came into the series with the Boks confident their scrum and lineout were in good shape.
By the last two scrums of the game, the All Blacks were in chaos, being shoved backwards at a rate of knots and were saved by the miraculous work of skipper Ardie Savea who somehow found a way to grab the ball at his feet and ram his personal gear level out of reverse into drive in spectacular fashion.
But the All Blacks know they can’t compete, not seriously, if they have a scrum that is being crushed like that.
NZ Herald’s Patrick McKendry
Right, well that’s settled, at least. On a night when the All Blacks as a group failed to cope with the Springboks’ set piece excellence, breakdown superiority, defensive pressure, and, underpinning it all, hunger, Jordie Barrett once again shone brightest to announce himself as New Zealand’s best fullback.
How the Boks ambushed the All Blacks in the second half on the Gold Coast when they had used pretty much exactly those strategies in Townsville a week earlier, when Ian Foster’s men were lucky to escape with a win, and indeed the first half at Robina Stadium, will presumably be up for discussion this week as the brains trust examine failures of execution and strategy.
NZ Herald’s Chris Rattue
South Africa (Big Winner)
One of the big differences between New Zealand and South African rugby in the modern era has been self-belief.
The All Blacks thrive on inner confidence, while South Africa are up and down in that department.
But the Springboks are awesome when they truly believe in their game plan, as we have seen in a couple of World Cups.
The signs of growing inner confidence were there on Saturday night, particularly in the way the Boks stuck to their guns when the game appeared to be slipping away.
They looked like a powerful, buoyant and tight-knit unit under newish coach Jacques Nienaber.
All Black pack (Losers)
Said it before, will say it again. The All Black dominoes will fall when legendary locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock run out of gas.
Retallick struggled, Whitelock wasn’t there, and the All Blacks were monstered by Eben Etzebeth and co in the latest test.
Bottom line: The All Blacks need to give their back-up locks plenty of action in order to find and develop the next great pair, as insurance before the next World Cup. And those newcomers need to be monsters.
Or to put it another way – the All Blacks’ relentless dominance over the physically softer Wallabies gives a dangerously false read.
NZ Herald’s Liam Napier
This one had blood, brutality and beauty in spades.
The Springboks pulled something of a swifty to mix their traditional power with genuine skill. It wasn’t a total transformation – the Boks still brought their furious strength to disrupting the breakdown and lineout, and their smothering line defensive line speed.
This time their backline, the midfield pairing of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am in particular, had the chance to showcase their world-class skill.
Stuff.co.nz Marc Hinton
Indeed, when the Springboks are able to string together the muscular elements of their game with just enough delicate touches, as they very much were in this classic defeat of the All Blacks, there can be no doubting they are a quality rugby side.
Far from killing the game, as some suggested in the wake of last week’s defeat in Townsville, they have breathed some life into it. These threatening, talented All Blacks of Ian Foster’s can be defeated if you do what you do well, stick to it and go the full distance.
the Boks took them apart at the lineout, pressured them so much on that kick and chase and harried them into errors and elements of poor discipline that in the end cost them the match – decided on an 80th-minute penalty to Elton Jantjies.
These All Blacks are not the finished item and have plenty to do to get there. But it has taken the mighty Springboks to confirm it and maybe in a couple of years’ time they will look back at this juncture as an important point in their development.
At the end of a splendid end to this competition, both sides will walk away with plenty to ponder. But there is one thing we can all be sure of: the Springboks remain right at the top of this game, playing a style of rugby that they are not only very good at, but they are not about to change for the world.
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