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Oom Rugby – Boks caught with pants down

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Oom Rugby writes for All out Rugby

Hi guys. This weekend the Boks walked away from Murrayfield with a good victory against one of the most dangerous teams in Europe. The Scots has a incredible record at home lately, beating all the comers and only losing recently to the All Blacks last year.

There many good and bad things we can talk about in this game, but a moment I want to look at today is our tendency to sometimes concede “soft” moments.

For me this is different to system failures, tactical failures or even player failures. Soft moments in Test rugby is when you just switch off a little bit, or you drop your intensity or concentration just for a second, and then the other team rip your throat out.

The Boks is steadily evolving their systems and players is starting to settle, but what we want to see emerging now is a true Test-match mentality. Let us take a look…

The picture above is the beginning of a sequence of events that will open the door for a Scottish try. Duane got his hands on the Scots ball, they were penalise for holding on, but then Handre did not kick the resultant penalty out. Now Hogg is sending the ball back with compound interest and the Boks will instead have a lineout all the way back in their own half.

To not kick a penalty out is simply unforgiveable at this level. It is not only a question of accuracy, it is also the cold mental attitude that you will not take a unnecessary risk by trying to win a few extra meters.

Thirty seconds later the Boks win the lineout, set up a maul and then execute a standard box kick exit. Papier kick perfectly from the base giving chasing blindside wing Nkosi time to get up and contest in the air.

We can also see Du Toit (who was not part of the lineout), Marx and De Allende as the follow up chasers. First prize Nkosi can win the contest, second prize the Boks can isolate the catcher or pressure his options. With a box kick we getting the ball behind the opposition forwards and we allowing our forwards to play onto the ball. So far so good.

Nkosi knock the ball on, but the Bok’s first line of chasers can now take charge and exert pressure. The ball spray out to Hogg and we can see above that De Allende is cutting off the outside option. Kriel and Dyantyi also shooting up to crowd the space on the left. But a problem has developed… The kick was good, the chase was good, and the follow up pressure was good, but now it is the rest of the Boks on the field who will momentarily switch off and forget they in a Test match.

Here is a different angle as Hogg now see that the Bok blindside chase line have broken down and lost concentration. There is nobody there. A big responsibility for this is Marx, who as the hooker throwing in the lineout must be up and patrolling that short side space. We talk about defenders folding at rucks, but folding can be true of any situation where a team must ensure they have defenders covering both the blind and open side. Hogg will turn on his afterburners and take the gift.

Above we see the second problem. The Boks further in depth has all drifted over to the left of picture. A counter attack is more likely to happen on that side of the field, so everybody is on autopilot going in that direction. Hogg can not believe his luck and with laser focus accelerate into the open tennis courts of space that the Boks has left open. He will beat the cover and put in a grubber, and Willie will be forced to kick the ball out to prevent the try.

The Scots throw at the lineout and as we see above will score with a beautiful variation. The prop Reid will shoot forward as if for a short throw and Kitshoff will follow him, opening a space behind him. Scotland score a lot of tries from mauls, so the Bok forwards is grouped and ready to defend what they think is coming. But they do not see Watson charge in from the scrumhalf position, through the space and take the perfect clean throw from McInally to score.

Siya, who is the Bok “scrumhalf” at this lineout, is perhaps positioned too far left, but the truth is he must be on that side as a secondary maul defender. So it is difficult to really point fingers at anyone. One solution could have been that Nkosi shoot up to cover the hooker, freeing up Marx to cover Reid and Kitshoff to then track back inside. It is something the Boks will look at and knowing Rassie they will not be caught with their pants down like this again.

One thing I want to add is that initially I thought the try was illegal because Watson entered the lineout from the scrumhalf position before the ball was thrown… But above we can see that he is still safely outside the 2m threshold as the ball leave McInally’s hands.

It is maybe unfair to be too critical of the Boks here as I believe most teams will be fooled by this variation. Scotland is known for their mauls, and if you want to stop a maul you must be ready for it and you must hit it early. The Scots know their own reputation, and play off it beautifully.

Anyway guys, it is all part of this evolution that we want to see – the emergence of the Springbok Test mentality. We do not make silly mistakes, we are always switched on, we do not make assumptions, and we alert and can adapt to rapidly changing situations.

The Boks has come a long way since last year in the way that they play, but the time has come where we want to see maturity in the way they think and react too.

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans

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  1. The Boks will become truly dangerous again when beginning dominating play more through attacking rugby. Pollard is starting to make linebreaks and when DDA and Esterhuizen are doing this, perhaps with a scrummy who is prepared to have a go – behind a big pack that dominated the collisions – that is when they get back to no 1.

    Sound defense and box-kicking get you to no 2 or 3, and you win maybe 60%, but you never to rule like the ABs unless dangerous on attack with many running options from scrumhalf to fullback.

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