Wallabies vs Springboks: video analysis of key threats and opportunities

Scott Allen Columnist

By , Scott Allen is a Roar Expert

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    The Wallabies and Springboks face off this week, and having analysed the two matches that the Springboks have played against the Pumas it will be a tough task for the Wallabies to record their first win in the series.

    Here are four areas where I see threats and opportunities for the Wallabies.

    Big ball running forwards
    The Springboks base their game on big, ball-running forwards establishing a platform. Particularly Duane Vermuelen, who often hits the line with a second player running very close behind to help drive him through the defensive line.

    Vermuelen’s individual metres carried in the first two matches against the Pumas were not far behind the combined metreage of all other Springbok forwards. He’s averaging 7.56 metres per carry, which is significantly ahead of any other forward in the series.

    I’ve also been impressed with the mobility of some of these big Springboks. They get around the field very well, start their run from deep and hit the line at pace so will provide a real threat for the Wallabies.

    Umbrella defence
    The Springboks have been very aggressive with their defence out wide, using an umbrella system with Jean de Villiers leading the way up on the outside in the role of the defensive end.

    This system has the potential to shut down any attempt by a team to play wide, but if the defence gets it slightly wrong there are opportunities to get outside the defensive end.

    The two most effective ways to beat this defensive system are to kick in behind the defensive end who has rushed forward, or use a decoy runner to isolate the defensive end and play out the back behind the decoy.

    If you’re going to use the kick as an option, you need to keep the kick fairly low so there’s not too much hang time which gives the defence time to adjust. I expect we’ll see Quade Cooper kicking for Israel Folau to get in behind the line.

    If you’re going to use a decoy play, the pass behind the decoy has to be fairly close to the line.

    Otherwise, the defence will have time to recognise the decoy and slide across to defend the wider play out the back. Cooper’s pass will suit this sort of attacking option.

    One thing that never works against an umbrella defence is to just keep passing the ball laterally trying to get outside the defensive end, even if it’s a long pass. It just makes it far too easy for the defence to make an adjustment and herd the attack over the sideline.

    Lineout drive
    It’s no secret that the Springboks like to drive the ball from the lineout and we’ll see plenty of it from anywhere in the Wallabies half.

    Their preferred option is to drive on a jumper in either position two or three in the lineout, but their most dangerous change-up is the drive from the back pod of the lineout.

    They use this option two or three times in each match once teams start to focus on the drive from position two or three.

    The Wallabies need to either sack the jumper as they land or drive the maul sideways early, because once the maul is set it’s very hard to stop.

    The Springboks are very good with their transfer of the ball before the sack, so I think the Wallabies need to focus on driving the maul sideways as it’s being set.

    Lineout defence
    Eben Etzebeth is a real threat in the Springbok’s lineout defence. He gets up into the air incredibly quickly and is very flexible in the air, so the Wallabies will need to throw away from him or design their plays to tie him up defending a fake jumper.

    The Springboks have been using a lot of four man lineouts with Etzebeth at the front, and regardless of whether he’s marked they throw to him because of his speed into the air.

    It’s noticeable that the Springboks offered the front of the lineout unopposed to the Pumas on most occasions. Many will tell you that this is a tactic that limits how a team can attack as ball won at the front of the lineout can’t be used to start a wide play.

    There’s no doubt that winning the ball at the back of the lineout helps a team attack wide, but it’s incorrect to say that you can’t attack wide from ball won at the front.

    If the Springboks are going to offer the front of the lineout I think the Wallabies have got to take it and design plays to play from there.

    If they keep winning easy ball and attack successfully from that position, the Springboks will have to change their plan and start defending the front, opening space elsewhere in the lineout.

    Watch the video below to see some examples of these four areas


    Scott Allen
    Scott Allen

    Scott has been a rugby contributor with The Roar since 2013. After taking some time out to pursue other roles in the game, including coaching Premier Grade with University of Queensland and the Wallaroos at the recent World Cup, he’s returned to give us his insights. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottA_ to hear more from him.

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