There were some real positives to come out of the Springboks’ win over Argentina in Nelspruit, even though they did not get a bonus point, such as the attacking intent they showed and indications of some very good coaching by Allister Coetzee.
The Springboks showed plenty of attacking intent, like after their first full lineout they got the ball wide after just two passes, whereas before, Allister Coetzee teams would maul from there, so that was quite good. Ruan Combrinck’s try came from a brilliant second-line attack and Elton Jantjies’ timing of the pass and his break were superb, that was similar to the tries the All Blacks are scoring.
Allister is certainly doing some good work because if Lionel Mapoe hadn’t dropped the ball over the tryline, that would have been an excellent try from first phase, and Johan Goosen’s try set up by Faf de Klerk was either from brilliant analysis work and coaching or, if it was instinctive, then it was a very good read by Goosen. Although as a defence coach I would have been quite upset with the Pumas eighthman because he kept scrumming way after it was necessary!
The other impressive thing was how the Springboks changed their kicking plan at halftime. In the first half they had kicked long, booted the ball downfield to try and get territory, but against Argentina, if they have numbers at the back, then they can come back with a running-bomb.
So you have to give credit to Allister for going for more contestable kicks in the second half, for far greater reward. You always need to have contestable kicks against Argentina because their back three are good under the high ball, they’re tall players. So you need to kick from nine and get the chase going.
You also don’t want to expose our back three to the high ball after we have kicked, because then it’s guys like Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk at the back, Johan Goosen even, and they are all smaller guys.
The Springboks’ final try exposed the Pumas’ blindside defence and looked a preplanned move to me. They always try to get their outside backs on the Pumas’ tight forwards and that was some really good coaching, along with the kicking game being changed when the original plan wasn’t working and exposing the blindside.
In defence, however, there are work-ons for the Springboks that I’m sure they will put right.
Argentina scored a try from a kickoff restart and you have to give credit to them for that, because they were playing with 14 men at the time. Martin Landajo exposed our pillar defence, they should never move, and because it was a kickoff our players were deep and once the break was made, the Pumas could get into space.
Another try came from a chip. Because you have to cover the crosskick when you’re inside your 22, all 15 players are in the line, but someone has to move and turn, that chip defence needs to be in place.
I thought Faf was outstanding with his kicking game, the energy he generates and especially the number of defensive turnovers he makes. For someone who is just 1.73m tall, he makes some big plays through defence and really makes a difference. He was on our radar last year, but he’s obviously gained confidence and he’s so good at spotting any sort of gap and exploiting it. He really backs himself.
The Springboks really wanted to come away with a win and winning ugly is often a good thing. You need to build confidence and have a good mindset when you go to a foreign country, and if they’d lost it would not have been there.
It’s become the norm in the Rugby Championship to play back-to-back games against the same opposition but there’ll be very little chance for preparation this week because it’s a marathon trip to Salta, including a three-hour flight on the Friday, and the players have to have time to recover and get fresh.
When we played in Salta in 2014 we had to come back again, winning 33-31, and we changed to contestable kicks. Plus it was so hot, even though we played at 5pm, and it’s at altitude on a small pitch, so it’s tough conditions.
The key for the Springboks will be the scrum and their set-pieces need to be good, and they need to kick contestables and attack the Pumas tight forwards on the blindside. Fortunately the scrum was good in Nelspruit and the driving maul broke them down as well.
Hopefully the Springboks will be able to show more of that attacking intent and it’s been interesting to see in the Currie Cup that there have been a lot of tries, which is an indication of attacking intent at that level as well. There are a lot of new, different coaches in the Currie Cup and it’s great to see a real mindset of scoring tries.
John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.