All Blacks’ attack was sharp but South Africa’s Super Rugby absence still cuts deep

Gary Gold is the USA Eagles head coach, and was Springboks assistant when they beat the All Blacks three consecutive times in 2009

OPINIONS: What makes sport so addictive and why we love it so much is because it can change from one week to the next, as evidenced by the All Blacks’ win against the Springboks at Ellis Park. The leadership group of the All Blacks stepped up against the Boks in a hostile environment at the spiritual home of South African rugby.

I suspected that the All Blacks would have to score three or four tries because I thought that there would be a handful of penalties and Handre Pollard is an accurate goalkicker.

The All Blacks looked into the areas that gave them confidence and they backed their attack and their ability to take the Springboks on.

All Black's first-five Richie Mo'unga takes on the Springboks' line at Ellis Park.

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All Black’s first-five Richie Mo’unga takes on the Springboks’ line at Ellis Park.

They got the ball in and out of the scrum nice and quickly and they moved the ball and got it away. Set-piece ball from a scrum is the best attacking ball to have on a rugby field. The All Blacks were more efficient in what they did from that point of view and also revisited what they were wanting to achieve from the kicking game.

Having scored a solitary try in the first test against the Springboks, the All Blacks notched four tries in the second test. Whether it was through the power game of running direct or the speed and agility game, the All Blacks had to find a way to breach the line and at Ellis Park their attacking play fired up.

The All Blacks have now snapped their three-match losing streak but they knew that they were not going to win a championship by having everything go their way. I knew the All Blacks hadn’t become bad rugby players overnight and the easy thing to always say is: “The coach is bad, just get rid of him!”

I also don’t think there’s a lack of coaching intellectual property in New Zealand and I’m sure Foster, who has been backed by NZ Rugby to lead the All Blacks through to the Rugby World Cup in France, would be able to pick up the phone to any of the former All Black coaches and they would help in a heartbeat.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster and NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson at Wednesday's announcement he would continue at the helm.

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All Blacks coach Ian Foster and NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson at Wednesday’s announcement he would continue at the helm.

By sticking with Foster, the All Blacks haven’t forgotten their own lessons. I’m not talking about 2009 but about 2007. NZR didn’t panic after 2007 and they still didn’t necessarily see success in 2009 but never pushed the panic button and the rest is history with back-to-back World Cups in 2011 and 2015.

The All Blacks had equally as torrid a time in the 2007 World Cup and the 2009 Tri-Nations. But they decided to stick with the head coaches and learned harsh lessons which stood them in good stead.

In 2009, the biggest change we saw was the end of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu because the kicking game hurt them as wings. Although they were next level with ball-in-hand, you saw a different kind of wing thereafter. The All Blacks selected fullbacks on the wing – they opted for the likes of Israel Dagg and Cory Jane in 2011 – who could better deal with the kicking game both from an aerial view and with the boot.

Scott Barrett of New Zealand carries Springboks defenders during the All Blacks win in Johannesburg.

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Scott Barrett of New Zealand carries Springboks defenders during the All Blacks win in Johannesburg.

While the All Blacks did brilliantly to win the second test, I’m wondering now if the fact that the South African teams are not playing Super Rugby anymore has not hurt the New Zealanders more than they thought it would.

What New Zealand basically had since professional rugby was South African teams coming to their shores for three weeks and, with the exception of teams like the Bulls and Sharks who won every now and again, other than that we were cannon fodder for them.

New Zealand were used to our players and knew the physicality that was coming. I use the analogy of muscle memory. When you don’t practice skills like stopping a maul and don’t have that physical dominance of tucking it up the jumper and coming around the corner and being direct as we are, because the Australians don’t offer that physicality, it poses a problem.

I feel for the challenges Foster has faced. South Africa no longer participating in Super Rugby has affected New Zealand more than I think it has affected the Boks. It is coupled with the fact that there is a lot more cohesion in this South African side, since Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber took over in 2018, than there is in this New Zealand team. I don’t think it’s one or the other – it’s a combination of those two factors that have led to the All Blacks’ difficulties.

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