My feeIing after the 2010 match was that between the referee, Habana and the box kicks we nearly lost the match. I also felt that the score line was flattering to the Welsh. After watching the game again I’ll stick with those sentiments. Not that Wales were bad, they actually played some good footy in that match but the South African players made it easy for them. The Springboks lacked concentration and were without a doubt tired after a long S14 a tough tri-nations and an extremely physical encounter the previous weekend in wet in cold conditions against Ireland.
See the team who played in that match in the clip below.
The Springboks only really played with concentration and directness for 15 to 20 minutes in that 2010 EOYT match namely at the start of the second half and scored two tries to take the lead and won the match.
Almost immediately after they took the lead -20 minutes into the second half- they again lost their concentration; gave the ball away and leaked another simple try. Luckily Jones missed with the conversation and Wales couldn’t score again after that and the Springboks were able to hang onto the ball; essentially taking Wales out of the match. See the third Welsh try in the clip below.
This third Welsh try –in the above clip- was on first impression dubious, for me. I was not entirely convinced North was not in front of Jones when he launched the corner kick. After looking at the evidence repeatedly I've made my peace with it. If ahead of Jones it was marginal and surely he should get the benefit of the doubt (if any). A lot more concerning, for me, was the fact that this try, yet again, resulted from Habana sitting too flat and infield on defence. I am hoping that the Springboks will be on the watch-out for this corner kick tactic this time round.
South Africa was not aggressive enough in defence in this 2010 match especially when taking the ball up. In short they lost the physical contest in the first half. See in the clip below how South Africa got forced back in the tackle by Wales.
On a number of occasions they tried to maul the ball up from line-out just to be forced back to such an extent that they lost the ball. See in the clip below how South Africa got disrupted and pushed back when they tried to maul the ball from the lineouts.
Notice the ease with which Wales disrupted and stopped attempted mauls from the lineout by South Africa in the clip above. When the maul failed Pienaar box kicked. Wales recycled, kick for territory and Aplon then run at them from fullback. The Springboks set-up the ball; recycled it and took it through the hands but got pushed over the side line. Contrast that with Wales who never (or rarely) got pushed over the side line when they ran with the ball.
We were outplayed in the scrums and at the breakdowns in the first half (See two clips of the scrums below. We really struggled in the scrum and we unable to get a right shoulder on number of occasions.
The first clip above shows the first scrum of the match. The scrum goes down initially then gets reset but Wales totally dominate the scrum pushing SA meters back. The scrum progress into a ruck where the situation is saved (for SA) by Juan Smit (not Stegmann as the commentator thinks) driving into the ruck.
The second clip above is also an example of Wales’s dominance in the scrums. Wales gets penalized when their prop stands-up in the scrum and walks around. The ease with which he does it is, however, the big concern from a South African perspective.
The Welsh are masters of phase play and counter attack; it’s their style; their type of game; the box kicks consequently just don’t scare them they actually thrive on it. They revel on the box kick because it means they don’t need to work to get the ball and they’ll keep the ball patiently in hand for phase after phase after phase until they find a hole.
The Springboks actually kept Wales in the game in the first half by constantly kicking the ball to them.
As a matter of fact Wales score both their tries in the first half from ball that South Africa kicked away.
The Springboks started off well by keeping the ball in hand forcing a penalty within the first minute.
They then got the ball again and at about 2 minutes into the game gave it away with a box kick. They didn’t see the ball again until after the first Welsh try 3 minutes later. See clip of the first Welsh try below.
This try of course was no try as there was undeniably gross obstruction by Shanklin as can be seen in the video clip above.
On the two photo's above you can see the blocking of De Villiers by Shanklin very clearly. In the first photo you can see that North is directly behind Shanklin when he receices the ball. Notice that Shanklin clearly ran inward into De Villiers and that he is actually spreading his arms to make sure he locks de Villiers in. His body position (spreaded arms and upright position) without a doubt indicate intent to block and not to evade a tackle or to punch through the line. In the second picture one can see how close to the blocked de Villiers North was when he slipped thought the hole. De Villiers was clearly in a position to tackle North in the first picture and without any doubt would have if Shanklin did not deliberately ran into him. If this was not deliberate obstruction then I don't know what is.
Obstructive running or blocking of defenders is the latest trend in modern rugby and essentially a result of the flat spread-out league rugby defensive patterns. The All Blacks (especially SBW) does it with off-loads after the ball carriers have ran himself into a position between the defender and the player who is going to receive the offload. This trend was evident in the way Brain O’Driscol and Jamie Roberts played for the Lions against the Springboks in 2009. The All Blacks scored at least four of their tries with that type of offload against Tonga in the first match of this year’s RWC. The way BOD/Roberts did it and how SBW does it is of course not illegal but it does amaze me that the South African teams have not yet caught up on this development.
(See in the clip below how Wales used offloads to a shoulder runner to maintain momentum at the tackle area. The commentators were lamenting about SA missing first tackles. There were a few push-offs and poor first tackles but generally speaking what was happening was that Wales had a shoulder runner on the outside shoulder of the ball carrier to take the ball at the moment of contact. With the ball carrier almost always positioned between the tackler and the receiver the ball receiver or shoulder runner are able to breach the defensive line and to create front foot ball for the attacking team.)
The Springboks went on the attack after the first James North try and created a 2 man overlap on the left hand side just for François Steyn to ruin the overlap by skipping two players; sending the ball with a long pass to Habana on the wing. It was really very simple what they needed to do; Steyn or the man next to him should have ran directly at the outside defender and that would have put at least 2 Springboks (three if Steyn kept the ball) in space on the outside. In fact the man outside Steyn could have made a dummy angled run to the inside of Steyn to draw the defenders in and/or make them hesitate. Even more basic just moving the ball through the hands would have created the overlap.
[There were at least one more such incident in the match where South Africa had clear overlaps and then with poor passing/decision making ruined almost certain tries – see clip below of how they ruined at least two tries at the end of the first half with poor ball distribution].
The second Welsh try also came from a kick down field (see clip below). The kick was on as the Springboks were pinned down in their 22 but with the best lineout in world rugby why not kick the ball out? The poor line-kick was probably a consequence of SA not being able to get a right shoulder in the scrum.
The chasing was poor and Wales was lethal in execution. This just emphasizes how well the Welsh play counter attacking rugby. In the early seventies this is how Wales played their rugby. A lot of their tries in the seventies were scored from kicks on the fullbacks or wings. The lions of 1971 (to NZ) and of 1974 (to SA) did the same thing and most of those runs were started by Welsh players.
The way the Springboks came back in the second half, the commitment of the players and the defense at the end were impressive. They should start to trust themselves with the ball in hand; they clearly need to work on their attacking options and decision making when they do take the ball down the line.
South Africa turned the match around when they stopped kicking the ball away in the second half and started running at the Welsh. See first Springbok try in the clip below.
There was some solid phase play leading up to this try. It was actually a bit surprising how easily they scored once they started to play direct rugby and to recycle the ball with patience after making sure they hit the tackles with speed and impact.
South Africa only really played with passion and commitment for 20 minutes (at the start of the second half) in this test match. The players had a hard game the previous weekend against Ireland and there were obviously concentration problems.
With their back against the walls -being 20-9 down- they came out after the halftime break focused and took it to the Welsh scoring two tries in quick succession.
This one by Matfield came after a period of good play and some nice aggressive direct rugby was a beauty (see second Springbok try below).
Tactically South Africa didn't play the game as well as they could and that and their lack of initiative (or our predictability) with ball in hand as well as our poor decision making -when they did create overlaps/opportunities- are the things that were, in general, disappointing for me in the 2010 match against Wales.
There was clearly need for more starter moves and variety (not doing the same thing over and over again as we did in this 2010 match) in the Springboks general play on attack.
I also think we should play more for the corners and maul, pod or starter move of the lineouts in their 22 when they play teams like Wales who like to run at you.
The way to play Wales is to keep it clinical. Play from set piece and for territory and when you kick hoof the ball into the stands. Pressure kicks don’t work. Rather keep the ball in hand with patience. Hit the rucks/collisions with speed making sure you force them back in the tackle. They don’t have big tacklers so as long as you run with speed onto the ball and protect possession as you hit the collisions with impact they will be out of the match.
Other than that make sure you force them back in the tackle when they carry the ball up and they will start to make mistakes behind the advantage line (See in the clip below how they countered from box kicks, see also how they force a penalty in the scrum and then started with phase play forcing us back in the tackle. This kept going until one good springbok tackle by Bakkies Botha which turned the tide and Wales started to run with back-foot-ball putting them under pressure).
This clip starts with a kick-off. SA mauls the ball up twice but then gives the ball away with a box kick.
Wales starts running the ball, creating space on the outside stringing in about 10 consecutive phases.
Eventually their forward momentum gets stopped with a great Bakkies Botha tackle. Wales then keep on trying to run with the ball behind the advantage line.
I believe the Springboksneed to stay clinical and play with directness and speed onto the ball and keep the ball in hand when they against Wales.