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Ken Borland

Boks keep their wits about them in 1st half, but not for long enough

Posted on September 26, 2022 by Ken

The Springboks showed that a week is a long time in rugby as they lacked the sharpness and nous of the previous weekend and were well-beaten 35-23 by the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Here are four key talking points.

Keeping their wits about them in the first half

As one wag pointed out, on a wild night at Ellis Park, there had already been one fight in the main grandstand before any points were scored. But plenty happened in the opening 20 minutes. The Springboks had to weather an early storm with 14 men as Damian Willemse was yellow-carded after eighthman Ardie Savea broke into the 22 after a clever crosskick by Richie Mounga.

Jesse Kriel, who always has to fight so hard for a starting berth these days, lasted just 10 minutes before knocking himself senseless trying to tackle Caleb Clarke, stumbling around like a new-born antelope before quickly being taken off the field. Pieter-Steph du Toit broke clear but was stopped just short and Lukhanyo Am was held up over the line by tremendous All Blacks defence.

The Springboks kicked a penalty to set up a lineout deep inside the New Zealand 22, but Joseph Dweba’s throw was skew.

By the 33rd minute, though, the All Blacks were 15-0 up and South Africa showed great composure to go into halftime only 10-15 behind thanks to Lukhanyo Am’s brilliant try and a 54m penalty by Handre Pollard.

Scrums and lineouts shaky and kicking game absent

The things that worked so well for the Springboks in Nelspruit last weekend, did not feature strongly in their game at Ellis Park, which is mostly why they lost.

It started with shaky set-piece execution, with New Zealand awarded a couple of free kicks at scrums and the Springbok lineout losing a couple of balls.

The kicking game which had put the All Blacks under so much pressure at Mbombela was strangely not utilised as much or as effectively on Saturday. It allowed the All Blacks to settle into a much better rhythm and for long periods they imposed their expansive game-plan on the Springboks.

It was little surprise when Malcolm Marx replaced Joseph Dweba at hooker on the half-hour and Steven Kitshoff came on for Ox Nche five minutes later.

The wisdom and wonder of Lukhanyo Am

South Africa’s outside centre was magnificent. He crossed the tryline three times himself, only one of his scores being allowed, and his break to put Makazole Mapimpi away in the second half was majestic. The try was controversially disallowed due to obstruction around the halfway line by Marx, but he seemed to be far away from where Am actually cut the line. It would have allowed the Springboks to level the scores at 18-18 on the hour mark, but instead New Zealand pulled 21-13 ahead.

Am, the defensive organiser of the backline, consistently made great decisions with ball-in-hand and his stepping, vision and acceleration were superb to behold.

Rieko Ioane shows he is class too

Ironically, given how well Am played, it was his opposite number Rieko Ioane who took the man of the match honours.

He was outstanding too, being the main cog in the All Blacks’ attacking efforts that saw them get the ball wide to great effect. They found plenty of space and reward out there, and Ioane sparked an excellent backline effort with his incisive running, especially from deep, and great hands.

He made Ian Foster’s team look like the All Blacks of old at times.

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