Wallabies vs Springboks: video analysis of key threats and opportunities

Scott Allen Columnist

By Scott Allen, Scott Allen is a Roar Expert

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    James Horwill sticking with Harlequins. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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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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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • September 5th 2013 @ 5:50am
      ms.esther said | September 5th 2013 @ 5:50am | ! Report

      Excellent stuff Scott. You’re the only Roar writer who gives us real insight. I’m looking forward to your analysis after the test.
      When you lead off by saying a win will be a tough ask for the WBs, you won’t win many fans on this forum. But I believe you’re correct.
      The Bok forwards just have to play their regular game to be formidable whereas our rejigged backs have to start from scratch and dazzle. If they don’t find holes, the Boks win.

    • Roar Guru

      September 5th 2013 @ 6:10am
      Brendan Hope said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:10am | ! Report

      Thanks Scott. Always very educational reading.

      It would be good if you could post some insight into how the Boks can penetrate the Wallabies defence without the use of their large ball running forwards?

      Would you say Heyneke Meyer has made the right selections for this match? Is it not obvious to everyone what the Boks are going to bring?

      • Columnist

        September 5th 2013 @ 11:11am
        Scott Allen said | September 5th 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        I think de Villiers has looked pretty good in the last two matches. Engelbrecht and Basson have got good pace so I think all three offer options once the Bok forwards get over the gain line.

        I think Engelbrecht is a weakness in defence – has looked hesitant in last two matches in making the decision to go out or in when there are runners in motion aimed at him as the defensive end.

        • Roar Guru

          September 5th 2013 @ 6:15pm
          Brendan Hope said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

          Engelbrecht’s channel will be a target I’m sure. Good runners like Lealiifano, Cooper and Folau joining the line will be asking more questions of him.

          I like the idea of Willie Le Roux on the wing in place of Basson but worry it takes that attacking prowess from the back away by fielding the predictable Kirchner.

          We all know the concerns about Pienaar’s quick ball distribution. I fear our halfbacks could be outplayed by the Genia/Cooper combo.

          I feel South Africa have to win the forwards battle if they want to avoid their 8th straight defeat at Suncorp!

          • Roar Guru

            September 5th 2013 @ 7:15pm
            Corne Van Vuuren said | September 5th 2013 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

            I think engelbrecht’s problem isn’t that he cannot tackle, his positional play in defence is sketchy, but that can be worked on.

          • September 5th 2013 @ 7:26pm
            Jackie Smit said | September 5th 2013 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

            I also like Willie back on the wing, he did a brilliant job for the Cheetahs in that position and they also have the very predictable Hennie Daniller at fullback. I would however, have liked to see Pat Lambie slot in at the back.

            • Roar Guru

              September 5th 2013 @ 9:56pm
              Brendan Hope said | September 5th 2013 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

              Time will only tell if fielding Kirchner and Pienaar will be a problem. If they do make things more difficult for us, I hope HM ten subs them quickly, leaving us enough time to turn things around!

    • Roar Guru

      September 5th 2013 @ 6:15am
      Colin Kennedy said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:15am | ! Report

      Enjoyed the read, thank you.

    • September 5th 2013 @ 6:29am
      Nigel Imrie said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      Another great article from Australias rugby Guru! It will be difficult to pull of a win but the Wallabies showed glimpses of producing some good rugby. I cannot help thinking that Horwall has become an ordinary forward that is to say Super rugby year in year out throws up new talent every season and that SA lock, Etzbeth is one of those, as you said speed in the air and the commitment to run hard at the defense, they play as though they are possessed and I am not seeing it in the Wallabies. Fardy last test showed some real grunt and am looking forward to more commitment from him, it will be a torrid affair with Bismark playing, so here’s praying the scrum has been corrected!! Here’s hoping they don’t run down QC channel all night because they will be looking for him as sure as night follows day, however the inclusion of the Honey Badger is the best news all week!!

      • September 5th 2013 @ 7:52am
        Mike said | September 5th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        I agree. I think Cummins’ style will be well suited to this game.

      • September 5th 2013 @ 3:45pm
        chris said | September 5th 2013 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

        Etzebeth is pretty special.

        Interestingly he was playing B team in the backline up u16 level. Had bit of growth spurt late in highschool and moved to lock.

        At 21 he is still not the finished product. His lineout work is still developing, having only started jumping in the line out two year ago as he was too heavy to lift for his schoolboy props.

    • September 5th 2013 @ 6:50am
      nickoldschool said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      Always surprised at how inefficient we are in Oz wtith the lineout driving mauls. I reckon all NH nations, the ABs and saffas are better than us there, which is unacceptable. Its something any team can master with a lot of work at training. And its such a weapon in today’s rugby as any penalty within 60-70m from opponents try-line can give you a lineout within 15m.

      Then you should score a try 1/2 times or milk a penalty. Thats really easy points we should be getting. Imo this should be a priority (in my amateur playing days, our forwards were spending hours mastering that at training. any coach should identify this as a priority. i have the impression White has been using it more at the brumbies)

      good analysis as usual scott.

    • September 5th 2013 @ 6:55am
      Bigbaz said | September 5th 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Great stuff, much better than the garbage above it.

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