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Opinion

Should the Springboks shuffle their midfield?

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Roar Guru
7th November, 2020
16

South Africa had a world-class midfield in 2019, with Damian de Allende as a bruiser and Lukhanyo Am as an all-round centre with a good carry and wonderful ball skills.

However, could the Springboks enhance it by shuffling their midfield in terms of positions and players to fit them?

Let us see the initial setup. De Allende stands at 105 kg and his outside partner Am stands at 98 kg. This provides them with two heavy-carry options. Both men possess good ball skills and were at the very least decent passers or kickers.

De Allende was often used to crash up first-phase platforms to get the momentum into the attack, while Am was used as a secondary playmaker on top of their triple axis of Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard and Wille le Roux. He injected himself into play at the edge at times as a strike runner and then put the ball away.

His role as a second designated killer when le Roux is not there is extremely handy and he can create many opportunities.

Should the Springboks re-shuffle the make-up of their midfield? They have world-class midfielders beyond their starters, such as Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn and more.

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Let us say that Am is nailed on as a starter. He is the most all-rounded centre on the planet and has a kick-pass, excellent offloading and brilliant ball-handling.

Defensively, he makes brilliant reads and sometimes intercepts. He is extremely physical and fearless in contact. He is powerful, skilful, intelligent, and creative.

De Allende is no slouch as well and he has decent distribution skill and bruising power in the carry. He bumps of multiple defenders and rampaged over the line against Wales.

Should they try bringing Am to 12 and Kriel to 13 for more playmakers in the backline?

Am has the distribution skill and the power to break lines at 12. However, his defensive reads and quick hands are of better use at 13. But Jesse Kriel also has the similar attacking potency of a centre like Am.

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He has quick hands. Also, he is extremely fast and agile, being an elusive centre who was hard to stop in 2018, even against the All Blacks.

Defensively, he is solid as well, and his defensive reads are rather good.

Perhaps they could experiment with Kriel 12 and Am 13.

Kriel stands at 95 kg and with his body posture, muscular frame and pace he can be a strong carrier for the first-phase carries. Am can do these charges even better. A more well-rounded midfield with strong carrying options and better playmaking will help the Boks, especially if one of their key playmakers – see Handre Pollard – is out with a precarious ACL injury.

Kriel has started at 12 in the past and the Boks can play more expansively with Kriel and Am.

That can leave Am at 13 to make defensive reads and make plays.

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A midfield with Kriel at 12 and Am at 13 would reduce the carrying power slightly, but increase the midfield playmaking significantly.

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