Rugby 13.9.2017 10:28 am

No rest for the wicked Springboks defence

The Springboks are good tacklers in 2017 but their approach might still not be aggressive enough against the All Blacks.  Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images.

The Springboks are good tacklers in 2017 but their approach might still not be aggressive enough against the All Blacks. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images.

They are statistically the best defenders in the Rugby Championship to date but their system might actually not work against the All Blacks.

The Springboks have, rightly, been complimented for the way they’ve improved their defence in 2017.

Allister Coetzee’s troops have indeed been unrecognisable from the team that seemed to have no defensive structure in place during last year’s horror run.

Also read: We perhaps don’t realise what a big loss Jaco Kriel really is

Their statistics in the Rugby Championship to date suggests so too.

The Springboks’ tackle completion rate – their amount of successful tackles – is 87%, the best in the tournament.

They’ve also made the most dominant tackles (43) to date.

It’s not much of a surprise then that Springboks assistant coach Johann van Graan noted the side will continue to concentrate on their tackling in Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks in Albany.

Not only is it a strength of the Springboks’, it’s also a way of evening up a game against the world champions.

“Watching the British and Irish Lions’ series against the All Blacks from at home in South Africa (a few months back), it was a special series,” said Van Graan.

“It’s important to learn from other opposition, and mix that with what we are strong with. There were key moments [in the Lions series] that made it a drawn series. We learned one or two things but we will just focus on our defence.”

The Lions were hugely effective in keeping the All Blacks at bay because of an aggressive approach to defence, where they “rushed” attackers.

But therein lies a problem for the Springboks.

And it’s something former Sharks coach John Plumtree, who’s now assistant at the Hurricanes, has picked up on.

“I read that (former Springboks coach) Nick Mallett said the Bok defence is too passive and they sit back too much. I agree with that,” he wrote in a column for SARugbymag.

“If you sit back against the All Blacks attack and allow them to play, they will find a way to break you down eventually. The problem with that defensive system is it allows the opposition to keep the ball for a long period of time.”

The Springboks will have to be in the All Blacks’ faces this weekend yet when they did rush up to the Australians in last weekend’s draw in Perth, they lost their shape.

“Against the All Blacks, you have to take a few risks defensively and rush them. But that’s not the Boks’ defensive system and they won’t be able to change it in a short space of time,” wrote Plumtree.

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