Wed, 29 Sep 2021

  • There are specific basic areas of improvement the Springboks could incorporate that, although not drastic, could swing the deciding third Test their way.
  • The Springboks have improved their tackle technique, but they need to steer clear of head-on-head contact and no-arm tackles to avoid strict punishment.
  • Cape Town's tense atmosphere will demand the Boks use cute, cunning variations in both the lineout and first-phase carries to break the ice.

With the series level at 1-1, followers of the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions are pointing accusatorial fingers at each other ala the Spiderman meme about who has the more conservative, trite game plan.

The Boks doubled down on their "suffocation" game plan to win the second Test 27-9 last weekend after the Lions beat them at their own game 22-17 in the first.

Kick bombs were aplenty in two encounters, with both teams' "playmakers" resorting to the boot in phases with overlaps available wide.

Nonetheless, there are specific basic areas of improvement the Springboks could employ that, although not drastic, could swing the deciding third Test in Cape Town their way.

Tackle technique

Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones is a serial dropper of the shoulder, and the Boks noticed this in the first Test when Bongi Mbonambi was pinged for a "seat belt" tackle on the significantly lankier 1.98m Welsh lock.

Wyn Jones is a clever and cunning operator who knows he won't breach the gain line with his pure mass in a way Eben Etzebeth threatens to, so he goes almost head-first into contact and anticipates the referee's whistle to follow.

The Springboks were, however, wise to the idea in the second Test.

They kept an almost upright approach to Wyn Jones, attacking his carrying shoulder rather than going with the full force of their arms.

The Boks tackle technique might have improved, but they are still susceptible to getting penalised elsewhere, such as the potential card offence Cheslin Kolbe committed on Lions flank Tom Curry when the winger rushed face-first onto a tackle, and left with a bloodied nose.

Faf de Klerk was also lucky to escape further sanction for his apparent no-arms hit on his opposite number Conor Murray late in the first half.

That is not to mention the ill-timed tackles on the Lions' high-ball catchers, for which Kolbe almost got a red card for making dangerous contact with Murray when he was in the air.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 31: Makazole Mapimp

Inside ball

South Africa's carrying has been pedestrian, to say the least, and all their tries this series have been fashioned from kick-chase or kick-pass opportunities.

While they executed those to good effect and got due rewards by way of Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am tries, there is little else dimension to their offense.

No one is calling for a dramatic change in philosophy, but slight tweaks with ball in hand could open up a rigid Lions rear guard.

One such way is the old fashioned inside ball.

It's a pass so simple to execute but can have a devastating effect on the Lions' rush defence.

Warren Gatland has set up his team to sprint from the line, but their back trio - fullback Stuart Hogg and wings Anthony Watson and Duhan van der Merwe - to hang so far back in anticipation of Garryowens or cross-kicks that there is a gap the size of Kimberley's Big Hole in between.

There are numerous ways to exploit this, and the Boks have tried the chip over the top to little effect.

A cunning inside ball to Mapimpi from good first phase possession to Mapimpi could catch the Lions flat-footed.

Lineout variation

English behemoth Maro Itoje is reading damn near everything that's coming out of the two Springbok hookers' hands at the moment.

The third Test is not a time for both Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx to shrink back into their shell and become ultra-conservative.

It is, in fact, the time to innovate and catch the Lions with a few tricks that they might not be aware of.

Itoje has obviously studied all the tape and will continue to do so until the 18:00 kick-off on Saturday, so there is nothing that's already done that will surprise him or his cohorts Courtney Lawes and Wyn Jones.

A shot throw-in here and there or an intentional overthrow when they have a lineout in a good position could cause damage.

Imagine SA captain Siya Kolisi catching the ball at full tilt from the back of the lineout and going straight at the opposing scrumhalf ... it could be a recipe for devastation.

The same could be said if Mbonambi or Marx sprang the trap close to the touchline with a quick-one-two short throw-in to let the hooker run free.

The Boks could also pull an old New Zealand favourite: split the lineout into two decoy jumpers and throw to a man in the middle who runs through the pack undetected.

The Springboks should remember this move; Richie McCaw used it to give All Black a rare Ellis Park win over the Boks in 2015.

Unlike McCaw, though, whose score had questionable legality, the Boks would have to make sure their receiver is a member of the lineout, otherwise they will be penalised.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Liam Williams (Wales), 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England - subject to outcome of disciplinary hearing), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Sam Simmonds (England), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Finn Russell (Scotland), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

Source: News24

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