JOHANNESBURG – Springboks fans must hope coach Rassie Erasmus has a surprise element waiting for the All Blacks when the teams meet in a Rugby Championship Test in Wellington on Saturday (9.35am kickoff).
A plan that involves something out of the ordinary, something that isn’t predictable, appears to be the only way the Boks will be able to keep up with the fast-paced game and free try-scoring ability of the All Blacks.
Erasmus would have done his planning for this match months ago and surely he would have found that the best way to tackle the best team in the world is to keep them guessing by mixing up your play, and adding variety to your attack.
Because, if Erasmus and his Boks think the best way to take on the All Blacks is by out-muscling them and by physically dominating them – the so-called SA strengths – then they may as well not even run onto the field at the Wellington Regional Stadium.
The All Blacks don’t get bullied, they don’t allow themselves to be bashed around, so if you’re going to match them and try to actually beat them you’re going to have to come up with something a little different.
The thing is Kieran Read’s team will score 30-plus points, most coming in the second half when the All Blacks’ superior fitness, skill and speed normally kills off the opposition, meaning for the Boks to be in the contest they have to score 30-plus points, too. And to do that they’re going to have to bring more than their muscle to the contest.
What the Boks will need is variety in attack; changes of direction in play, kicks into space, dummy runners, angled runners. Hopefully, and crucially, Erasmus and his coaching team haven’t over-thought the Test, the challenge, what needs to be done.
As former All Black wing John Kirwan said on the New Zealand rugby programme “The Breakdown” this week, the Boks need to be allowed to “play” and not be hamstrung by over-thinking things.
The All Blacks’ speed of play and their counter-attacking ability – from the props to the men coming on from the bench – are on another level. The Boks have to show the same kind of killer-instinct and variety if they are to have any chance of going toe-to-toe with the world’s best. That is the challenge for Erasmus and his team come Saturday.