Boring Springboks? Not Rassie’s vintage!

South Africa's Damian Willemse celebrates scoring his sides ninth try with Frans Steyn and Sbu Nkosi during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between South Africa and Canada at Kobe Misaki Stadium on October 8, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

Basic stats show that the national team is lighting up the tournament in more ways than one.

As the Springboks bunker down in Kobe to wait out Typhoon Hagibis and who’ll they’ll face in the quarterfinals, it now seems highly likely that they’ll be bestowed with a fairly satisfying honour.

Yes, Rassie Erasmus’ troops – unless the Wallabies massacre Georgia in Shizuoka on Friday – are going to statistically be classified as the World Cup’s most attacking team after the group stage.

That fact is merely the most eye-catching theme to what the numbers say about South Africa’s play in the tournament.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

The Boks are the most prolific team to date

Cheslin Kolbe during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool B match between South Africa and Italy at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on October 04, 2019 in Fukuroi, Japan. (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)

Siya Kolisi and his lieutenants have crossed the whitewash 27 times, in contrast to the All Blacks, who’ll end on 22 due to their meeting with Italy on Saturday being abandoned.

As a result, they’ve scored the most points (185) to their pool rivals’ 157.

It’s likely that the New Zealanders would’ve overtaken their old foes against a troubled Azzurri, but it shouldn’t detract from South Africa’s potency on the attack.

They’ve made the most runs (484) and made the second most linebreaks (63).

Theoretically, if the All Blacks had played, they would’ve overtaken the Boks in terms of runs, but that would also suggest that South Africa capitalise on their attacking opportunities better.

The Springboks are not playing on the back foot nor just focusing on counter-attacks

The one thing that’s made the national side decidedly un-sexy for some rugby fans is how they score their points.

South Africa’s traditional strength has always been a power game, an imposing and gifted pack of forwards discomforting opposition – be it in the collisions or set-pieces – as well as a watertight defence forcing mistakes.

That hasn’t been forsaken as will be elaborated on later, but this Bok group has certainly not been spooked by being on the front foot.

They average 58% possession across their four matches as well a 63% territory.

Indeed, even in the defeat to the All Blacks, the Boks made more running metres and enjoyed the majority possession and territory.

In fact, it was only some inaccurate defence and discipline that cost them in that match.

And on that note…

The Springboks’ defence is gradually improving

Andrew Coe of Canada is tackled by Siya Kolisi, Vincent Koch and Damian De Allende of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between South Africa and Canada at Kobe Misaki Stadium on October 08, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

After a few weeks of hyperbole, the Boks received a timely wake-up call against the All Blacks in Yokohama, where they missed 35 of their 143 tackles – a lowly completion rate of 76%.

With defence guru Jacques Nienaber in charge, it was always going to unlikely that the South Africans would feel a hangover.

Despite overwhelming Namibia in many facets, the Boks still made sure they had a 90% completion rate against their neighbours and completed 87% of their tackles against an accomplished Italian outfit.

Even in the helter skelter outing against Canada did they finish with a completion rate of 80%.

Obviously there’s still room for improvement, but the signs are encouraging.

Set-pieces remain the jewel in the Springboks’ crown

Lodewyk De Jager of South Africa competes for a lineout with Dean Budd of Italy during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between South Africa v Italy at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on October 04, 2019 in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Rassie Erasmus’ team is, frankly, a magnificent set-piece team.

They haven’t lost any of their 47 lineouts, a simply remarkable stat given some problems in that area at the start of the international season.

The scrum remains similarly vaunted, with only one out of 21 going awry against the All Blacks.

Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has consistently lauded the hard work of his players.

One can see why…

For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.




today in print

today in print