Sunday Times

Stand tall, you Boks

SA proved they can be dis­rupters of rugby’s world or­der

- By LIAM DEL CARME New Zealand national rugby union team · South Africa national rugby union team · Rassie Erasmus · Iceland · Siyamthanda Kolisi · Siya · Francois de Klerk · Wellington, New Zealand · Austria · Bill Williams · Frederik Willem de Klerk · Brisbane · Damian de Allende · Belarus · Malcolm Marx · Australia national rugby union team

● This cli­max of this Rugby Cham­pi­onship match ar­rived like a dag­ger to the aorta for 50,000 highly ex­pec­tant spec­ta­tors.

The All Blacks snatched vic­tory with two late con­verted tries but the Spring­boks can take heart from their last two per­for­mances against the game’s stan­dard-bear­ers.

The All Blacks’ stand­ing ex­pe­ri­enced some mild tremors when these teams last met and yes­ter­day they were ex­posed to a full-blown seis­mic event un­til they sum­moned enough courage and en­ergy to win this match.

For a team that had trav­elled just un­der 20,000km in the last fort­night it was a truly mon­u­men­tal come­back, leav­ing Spring­bok coach Rassie Eras­mus to per­haps lament his de­ci­sion to with­draw man of the match Mal­colm Marx from bat­tle when the team needed him most.

Despite the de­feat the Spring­boks proved them­selves as dis­rupters to rugby’s world or­der.

Eras­mus can draw in­spi­ra­tion from the fact that they found dif­fer­ent ways of com­bat­ing the All Blacks in their last two en­coun­ters. Next year’s Rugby World Cup is far from cut and dried.

In the closer com­bat hooker Marx, as well as cap­tain and flank Siya Kolisi, were out­stand­ing. Kolisi is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly in­flu­en­tial ball car­rier for the Boks and he cre­ates chaos in the op­pos­ing de­fence.

Full­back Wil­lie le Roux stood tall on the oc­ca­sion of his 50th Test, while Faf de Klerk pulled all the right strings be­hind the pack.

It wasn’t the much an­tic­i­pated free-flow­ing spec­ta­cle, with both teams ap­ply­ing a much more prag­matic ap­proach than the lung-bust­ing thriller that played it­self out in Welling­ton last month.

Space was at a pre­mium with both sets of de­fences va­cat­ing their lines with alacrity which made for lat­eral ball car­ry­ing. Sonny Bill Wil­liams posed as much of an at­tack­ing threat as the as­sis­tant ref­er­ees, with the All Blacks starved of the ball for the bulk of the first half.

The Boks showed greater ur­gency at the ruck, while deftly weighted kicks al­lowed the home team to get be­hind the All Blacks. It was from there that they ap­plied the squeeze to hold a dis­tinct ter­ri­to­rial ad­van­tage in the open­ing half.

De Klerk, pil­lo­ried for his per­for­mance against the Wal­la­bies in Bris­bane last month, was a bun­dle of en­ergy as the All Blacks were firmly pegged onto the back foot. Damian de Al­lende and even Kolisi were also un­likely ap­pli­ers of the boot to get the All Blacks to do a 180.

The Boks held 72% of the pos­ses­sion in the first half and they would have been dis­ap­pointed to go into the break with the scores level.

They had made the bulk of the run­ning and as much as their use of the boot con­tained All Blacks threats, it also lim­ited their own at­tack­ing po­ten­tial.

They also made their pres­ence felt in the rucks against the team that had con­ceded the most turnovers in the com­pe­ti­tion. The Boks, by con­trast, had pil­fered most from the op­po­si­tion in the com­pe­ti­tion and they some­how did that with­out en­list­ing the help of a recog­nised fetcher. It helps to have the colos­sal pres­ence of a hooker like Marx who stands his ground at the ruck. His ad­he­sive qual­i­ties once he at­taches him­self to the ball in de­fen­sive rucks is pure gold.

La­mentably, though, he didn’t see it through to the end, and nei­ther did his team­mates.

 ?? Pic­ture: Reuters ?? South African play­ers look de­jected af­ter los­ing in the last minute against New Zealand at Lof­tus Vers­feld yes­ter­day.
Pic­ture: Reuters South African play­ers look de­jected af­ter los­ing in the last minute against New Zealand at Lof­tus Vers­feld yes­ter­day.

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