Cape Town — While the All Blacks were well short of their best, the Springboks weren’t perfect either, despite a convincing 26-10 victory at Mbombela Stadium last weekend.
It was certainly a more compelling performance than during the three-Test series triumph over Wales, as the Boks showed more intent on attack, while their kicking game was too hot for the Kiwis to handle.
But here are three areas where Siya Kolisi’s team must be even better if they hope to continue the All Blacks’ misery in Saturday’s second Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park (5.05pm kick-off)…
Get the driving maul going
With new forwards coach Jason Ryan bringing his Crusaders knowledge to the fore, the All Blacks largely stopped the Bok driving maul in its tracks at Mbombela Stadium.
The home side got a few drives rumbling forward, but would have expected to get more reward from one of their strengths.
The Boks should gain more impetus at Ellis Park due to the return of No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who spends a lot of time during the week fine-tuning the lineout drives in tandem with forwards coach Deon Davids.
Not only is Vermeulen a money-ball lineout-jumping option at the back, he is also able to get into the right positions as a lifter and to stop the opposition forwards from bursting through the middle.
But the pressure will be on new Bok hooker Joseph Dweba to be accurate with his lineout-throwing, as well as controlling the ball expertly at the back of the maul like Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx always do.
Rounding off 22-metre entries
It was pleasing to see wings Makazole Mapimpi and Kurt-Lee Arendse being brought into the play more often in Mbombela, with the Boks clearly trying to play a more positive brand of rugby.
But 16 of the 26 points scored by the South Africans came through the boot of flyhalf Handre Pollard — and Willie le Roux’s late try was as a result of a fumble by the All Blacks inside their 22.
The world champions only really have Arendse’s thrilling touchdown to show from last week’s effort — and even then, it came from a Pollard up-and-under that was contested in the air by the Bok No 14, and then Lukhanyo Am’s sublime offload in the tackle.
Where are the strike moves from set-pieces? Where is the patience to take the ball through multiple phases and outwork the All Black defence? I remember one such passage of play around the half-hour mark last week, but such moves were few and far between.
Doing that and scoring tries as a result, instead of just off box-kicks or counter-attacks, would present real progress in the Bok attacking game, and perhaps this is where Am needs to get his hands on the ball more regularly.
Stand strong in defence
The Boks’ tag-team tackling style — with one player going low and the other trying to rip the ball higher up — worked well in neutralising the All Black attack last week.
Once the Kiwi ball-carrier was brought down, it was almost inevitably Malcolm Marx who arrived to win the penalty or the turnover.
But tomorrow, Marx is on the bench, with Dweba being brought into the starting line-up on Wednesday for the injured Bongi Mbonambi.
While the new Stormers signing is renowned for being a strong ball-carrier, he doesn’t quite possess the same qualities as Marx at the breakdown.
So, with the All Blacks desperate to turn things around, they are likely to employ an all-out attacking style, especially with Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf.
New Zealand will look to stretch the Bok defence from side to side, and then land the sucker-punch up the middle with the likes of powerful wing Caleb Clarke.
Vermeulen is a master on the ground, but he hasn’t played for eight weeks, so the rest of the forwards and someone like Am will need to climb in as well.