Rugby 11.9.2017 09:25 am

The positives and negatives the Springboks take to Albany

The Springboks' defence remains a big plus. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

The Springboks' defence remains a big plus. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Allister Coetzee’s troops are still unbeaten but delivered a mix bag in Perth that needs to be addressed before the All Blacks.

Despite the disappointment of only drawing against the Wallabies at the weekend, the Springboks still remain unbeaten in 2017.

The All Blacks await them in Albany on Saturday in what will be their biggest challenge by far to date in this campaign.

Also read: Springboks player ratings: Pieter-Steph and Raymond (Rh)ule

Here are the positives and negatives coach Allister Coetzee takes into the clash.

THE POSITIVES

Improved conditioning

In international rugby, especially against the All Black, it’s not always about how you start but rather finish.

As any discerning fan now knows, New Zealand are kings of lifting the tempo in the last 15 minutes.

The Springboks aren’t at that level yet but in Perth they showed some encouraging signs.

They never had much ball but at least gained 242 running metres – as opposed to a pitiful 65 m in the first – in the second half and rallied from 10-20 down.

Also, they ended strongly and didn’t look tired.

Influential bench

Tying in with the previous point is the success of the Springboks’ replacements.

Coetzee now relies heavily on them.

Steven Kitshoff has been outstanding as a fleet-footed, all-action prop in the last half hour, while the giant Jean-Luc du Preez provides oomph as ball-carrier and defender.

The confidence Pieter-Steph du Toit gained as a sub saw him deliver a brilliant showing as a starter in Perth and even Lood de Jager looked decent upon his competitive return.

Of course there are now calls that Kitshoff needs to start but do you want to disrupt a dynamic that works?

Good defence

Yes, there were a few times in Perth where the Springboks’ panicked defenders seemed to forget how to organise themselves defensively.

But their tackling stats were still impressive.

In fact, the Boks’ tackle completion rate was a very good 91%.

It testified to how they managed to regain composure again after a few hairy moments.

THE NEGATIVES

Shape on attack

To be brutally honest, the Springboks didn’t play much rugby in the first half.

And in the second 40, they initially relied on counterattacking opportunities to make their way into Wallaby territory.

It’s a strategy that can work but then you need to make sure you force mistakes from your opponent – dangerous against the All Blacks – and make sure you take your chances.

South Africa weren’t great on capitalising on good attacking positions.

Competition for Elton Jantjies

Last year, then Lions coach Johan Ackermann made a controversial comment.

He justified not having Marnitz Boshoff as Jantjies’ deputy on the basis that not one of the two likes being an understudy.

Both are only effective as starting flyhalves.

What’s happened now is that it seems Jantjies doesn’t like competition.

He was superb in Super Rugby when no-one was breathing down his neck and effective against France and Argentina as top dog in the No 10 jersey.

Is it a coincidence that when Handre Pollard returned to the bench, Jantjies delivered his poorest performance of 2017?

Captain Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth is a great player that leads from the front.

But his credentials as captain still needs to be reinforced.

He’s a hot-headed guy who likes riling up opponents.

It’s a great attribute for a senior man but not as a captain.

There were times when Etzebeth seemed to lose control in Perth when he needed to stay more calm.

South Africa needs him to grow (perhaps even mature?) further.

 

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