Saturday’s test between the All Blacks and Springboks revealed a number of interesting things.
New Zealand of course won, and the manner in which it won was convincing.
However, the margin of victory was not as comprehensive as last week’s, and the Boks put up a fight this time. But it was a wet night and the ball was slippery, and Carter missed a load of kicks at goal, so overall the score-line is still pleasing.
It’s interesting to hear the South African take on the game. The Springboks coaching staff were quick to attack the standard of refereeing, as if bad reffing was the only thing that let them down. The fact of the matter is that South African teams continue to struggle with discipline. The sinbinning of Danie Rossouw was a bit harsh, but he infringed right under the ref’s nose, so put himself at risk. Richie McCaw could have been yellow-carded later in the game for infringing, and was a trifle lucky to stay on. But by the time that became an issue we’d effectively won the game.
Apart from the on-field performance, it’s intriguing to see the different coaching and management styles. There were constant camera shots of the two coaching panels during the game. Henry and co were always calm and composed. The South Africans seemed much more excitable, with some of the team gesticulating, cursing and finger-pointing.
In fact, when I think about it I don’t think I’ve seen a match on TV involving this Springbok coach, where he and his team weren’t jumping up and down in excitement and/or outrage. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re winning or losing.
And that to me is the difference in the teams. One group of players has a steady and settled management team that doesn’t look externally for excuses when the players don’t perform. Another has a management team that is quick to blame the referee and opposition when things don’t go well.
South Africa’s two-dimensional play was exposed over the last two weekends. Last year South Africa kept winning games because its game-plan was simple, ugly and effective. The plan was to bash the ball forward with that big forward-pack, and then boot the ball high in the air. On defence they would charge up and have at least one guy sniffing for the intercept try. Most teams struggled to come up with a response to those tactics.
But happily for New Zealand, the Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, is looking to blame South Africa’s poor showing on everything but poor play and unimaginative tactics. Let’s hope he continues to do so for another year and a bit, and doesn’t make the necessary adjustments. It would be nice to win that World Cup next year, and the South Africans are our main threat.
It may be too soon to suggest that South Africa have peaked and are now in trouble. They have some great players, though they also have a few who are looking past their best. Still, they may regroup and come back stronger.