All Blacks look at more depth to combat rushing defence?
Don’t be surprised to see a deeper All Blacks backline at Albany this weekend. Or was Beauden Barrett was just foxing with the Springboks?
Talk of rush defence has been all the rage among discussions and dissections of the All Blacks of late.
After the British and Irish Lions often employed it during their drawn series in New Zealand, somewhat following in the footsteps of Ireland during their historic win in Chicago last year, a defensive system that charges off its line is gaining traction as a key factor in throwing the world’s No 1 team off their stride.
That hasn’t stopped the All Blacks from going three-fromthree to start the Rugby Championship, scoring back-to-back wins over the Wallabies and coming-from-behind to overcome Argentina last weekend.
The same polish and precision we are used to seeing in attack, however, has continued to at times go missing across those three fixtures.
But, according to the player charged with controlling that back-line from first five-eighth, sometimes things are not always as they seem.
‘‘I don’t think Argentina brought lot of that,’’ Barrett said on Thursday, two days out from their clash with South Africa at QBE Stadium.
‘‘We allowed them to have that space by being a bit flat at times but I certainly wouldn’t call them a rush defence team.
‘‘We expect a bit more from South Africa but we’ve learned from the weekend and it can sometimes be perceived line speed and we are playing into their hands if we are too flat at the line. We have ways of dealing with that.’’
Of course, implementing those changes against a team with the quality and renewed confidence of the Springboks is not an easy task.
Barrett acknowledged this year’s young South African outfit, who are unbeaten across six games, were a ‘‘very strong side’’.
But the All Blacks have become renowned for their ability to solve the problems the chasing pack throw at them and the confidence that trend would continue did not appear to have dipped.
Barrett said the squad were not feeling any perceived public angst at the team’s performances so far in 2017, before explaining what they needed to improve with regards to what opposition defences were throwing at them.
‘‘[Communication from those around me] certainly helps but an easy response would be just to stand deeper, it gives you more time on the ball. If you have that speed we can always make up for lost time if we are a bit deeper.
‘‘I [also] have to have better situational awareness of whose around me and what the best option is for that occasion.
‘‘Understanding the difference of when a tight forward is outside or inside me versus an outside back, and learning from those situations."
The All Blacks’ injury crisis is showing no signs of abating, with Israel Dagg the latest player set to join the ranks of the long-term absentees. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen revealed at his Thursday post-team naming press conference in Auckland, ahead of Saturday’s test against the Springboks in Albany, that Dagg’s ongoing knee problem has reached a point where it might require a major break from the game.
Beauden Barrett attempts to evade the tackle of a Pumas defender in New Plymouth last weekend.