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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Should the Springboks kick it or run it against the Wallabies at Adelaide Oval?

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Cape Town – The Springboks have been heavily criticised for kicking the ball too often, so should they run with it against the Wallabies on Saturday?

There have been encouraging signs on attack during the 2022 season, especially in the 26-10 victory over the All Blacks in Mbombela, where Siya Kolisi’s team showed that they can pressurise their opponents with ball-in-hand instead of just employing box-kicks.

That positive approach continued in some respects in the 35-23 Ellis Park loss to New Zealand, where Lukhanyo Am and Damian Willemse were the stand-out backs going forward.

But there were also a couple of scoring opportunities wasted, such as Damian de Allende’s chip-ahead in Mbombela and Willemse’s grubber at Ellis Park when he had stepped past a few defenders.

The main weapon on attack, though, in 2022 have been tactical kicks – whether it’s a contestable up-and-under or box-kick for the wings to chase, or driving the opposition back into their 22.

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When you have lethal runners such as Am, Willemse, Makazole Mapimpi and now Warrick Gelant, though, is that still the way to go at the Adelaide Oval?

A lot depends on how the opposition copes with whatever comes their way, so the Boks need to think on their feet. The kicking tactics worked in Mbombela as the All Blacks were losing the aerial contest, with Mapimpi and Kurt-Lee Arendse disrupting the kick receipt.

That wasn’t the case at Ellis Park, where Jordie Barrett and Will Jordan handled most of those ‘bombs’, and despite that, the South Africans didn’t adapt accordingly. They should have used shorter chips or grubbers, as well as hold onto the ball and go through the phases.

It is all about having variety and doing the unexpected, and that is why the Boks gained good yards when they played with good width in both New Zealand Tests.

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For Saturday, the Boks will definitely continue their kicking barrage, as the Wallabies had a nightmare in that regard in their 48-17 drubbing at the hands of Argentina in San Juan a fortnight ago.

“We conceded four tries with kicks in behind us and certainly got dominated in the collision area,” coach Dave Rennie said afterwards.

The Wallabies actually kicked a lot themselves in last year’s Rugby Championship double over the Boks, with Quade Cooper prominent in the 28-26 victory on the Gold Coast.

Assistant coach Dan McKellar told Australian media yesterday that Noah Lolesio will wear the No 10 jersey at Adelaide Oval in place of the dropped James O’Connor, and while the Brumbies youngster is a creative player, his coaches want him to rather just stick to the game-plan.

“My advice there is he doesn’t need to go there and think he needs to be the best player on the field,” McKellar said. “He needs to do the basics well and direct us around the park and manage the game well.

“Understand when we’ve got momentum, understand when we don’t have momentum and how we handle that. Play the game in the right areas of the field, and that’s what his job is.”

Bok replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies said yesterday that the visitors should be ready for whatever comes their way: “We will find that (Australia’s game-plan) out in the first 10 minutes – I don’t think we can say now whether they will run against us or use their kicking game or whatever…

“Last year they kicked much more, and in previous years, they ran more. We will have a look in the first 10 to 20 minutes, and then look at ourselves as a team to find solutions for that.”

But McKellar’s comments indicate that the Aussies will kick a lot again, which will provide the likes of Willemse, Mapimpi and Gelant ample opportunities to take on the defence.

Will the Boks dare to run the ball back, though?

@AshfakMohamed

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