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The All Blacks have beaten the Springboks by 57 to 0 this evening in Auckland and stretch their lead at the top of the Rugby Championship.
A lot was spoken about this Springboks team in the lead-up to the game – an unbeaten run in 2017 including a strong performance away from home last week against the Wallabies suggested that tonight might be an classic clash between two old rivals.
Both sides were missing some top talent but it still promised to be an enthralling match-up between two world rugby powerhouses.
In the first ten minutes of the game the Boks partly lived up to this hype and it looked like the All Blacks were going to have to work hard to earn a home win.
But in the following 30 minutes the ABs took almost every single opportunity that occurred and ran in four converted tries.
Most of them were off the back of errors from the Boks rather than the result of a lengthy build up of possession from the Kiwis.
It wasn’t that the Kiwis scored at will like they perhaps did against the Wallabies in the first half of the Sydney match of this year’s championship – it was more that they pounced so effectively when a half chance showed its face.
There are several issues that the Boks will have to look at before their next match.
The set piece was flawed from start to finish. A lot was made of the clash between the hookers today – Marx vs Coles was meant to be an exciting head-to-head but in the end it was totally one-sided. Marx just couldn’t get his timing right and the Boks line out suffered. It got to the point where a Bok line out was an attacking opportunity for the All Blacks and certainly not the solid foundation that it should be.
In the scrum too not only was the Boks performance poor but it ended up being the source of far too many penalties for the men in black. The front five will be truly disappointed with today and will have to work hard to regain confidence moving forward.
When they did have the ball, the Boks attack just didn’t click tonight. Obviously that’s partly down to the oppressive defence from the Kiwis but the South Africans seemed to struggle with switching to Plan B or C once it was clear that Plan A was not going to work.
A lot was expected from Jantjies – he’s shown in recent months that his pure talent was being backed up with control and consistency at the international level. Going up against the best No.10 in the world was going to be a real demonstration of how far he’s come and sadly today the demo went as well as Apple’s recent demo of their new Face ID – crash and burn!
To be fair it’s always going to be hard to be a No.10 when your forwards are going backwards but Jantjies struggled to get in the game. His early penalty goal miss was a rare one and who knows what would have happened if he’d slotted it but from that early point onwards he was far too quiet.
Their restarts were confusing and they had a number of them. Far too many times they kicked the restart deep with the hope that one of the wingers would be able to sprint up and challenge. But the kicks were far too deep and what we saw time and again were All Blacks having time and space to take the catch cleanly and then decide how to respond. When the Boks dragged the restart shorter they got to compete and caused the Kiwis some difficulty.
In a way this demonstrates one of the bigger problems that the South Africans face – when they are under pressure they are not making good decisions. More and more in sport there is discussion about how the best of the best are able to make good decisions under fatigue and under pressure. Today the Boks demonstrated that at the moment they are not the three-dimensional team that they want to be.
From the New Zealand point of view they will obviously be happy with the number of points they scored – hard not to be when you rack up over 50 against a tier one competitor.
But what will arguably put a bigger smile on their faces is the 0 points conceded. The Boks missed one penalty kick at goal and that was really their only scoring opportunity.
The All Blacks defence stood up strong and while the Boks didn’t present an overly challenging attack, it is still an impressive feat to have kept their discipline and organisation for 80 minutes.
The Boks will be hugely disappointed with the way that they lost today and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. To be fair to them they have been travelling a lot in the first four rounds of the Championship and now get to return home for the final two rounds.
A good win against the Aussies in two weeks time will help heal the wounds from today and then they will have another chance to test themselves against the best of the best in early October when the All Blacks travel to Cape Town.
The All Blacks coaching staff will have some time to rethink how they define success and motivate their squad who are running away with this year’s Championship.
Winning at home like they did today is impressive but if they can go and play like that on the road as well then that is truly scary.