With back-to-back wins over Wales and Scotland, the Springboks generated fantastic momentum on the year-end tour ahead of their clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The incredible depth and strength of Team Springbok make it very difficult for the opposition to absorb the pressure, especially when the game is increased by an additional 10-15% when the substitutes come in. Their dominance at the break was so evident in the last 30 minutes against Scotland, and it was very difficult for the hosts to get the game under control in the last stanza.
In the training arena, former Springboks forwards coach Matt Proudfoot now occupies the same role with England. It will be an advantage to have Proudfoot involved with England in their preparation for the Springboks. Having been part of the winning 2019 World Cup campaign, Proudfoot will have a lot more information than Eddie Jones on how the Boks have operated recently.
This idea may come in handy for England, but the plans are all good until you need to execute them. England will have to find ways to gain the upper hand over two very well established and powerful packs.
The first substitute line, which includes Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch, was huge against Scotland and by all accounts blowing up the famous ‘Bomb Squad’ is much easier said than done. . I’m not an engine room pro and never have been, but this week I think Proudfoot will be working on trying to cancel not one but two packs at all costs on Saturday.
The way England are going to do it is going to be interesting because I don’t think any team has succeeded 100% against South Africa yet. Australia likely came close because they mixed really well, got nothing but set piece awards and nullified the much-vaunted Springbok maul.
In the rear division, the Springboks benched Herschel and Elton Jantjies with the 9-10 axis of Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard. Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber might have said that Herschel needed to learn how to better handle northern hemisphere conditions – having only had 70 minutes – but I suspect that even if he did, Reinach would still have started against England.
Reinach played for the Northampton Saints from 2017 to 2020 and is used to the English conditions. Herschel hasn’t been exposed to much of the Northern Hemisphere, but I’m sure the improved handling of the game will come with experience and time under the belt. I’m glad Jantjies squared got a good run and faith in them has been shown. They did the job against Scotland and I think neither of them had a bad game, but it’s clear South Africa is planning ahead.
When it comes to green and gold as a collective unit, it is very difficult to be loved when the public and the media have this perception that you are playing rugby boring and frustrating. If you are at the top of the tree playing wonderful rugby then people will love you. What frustrates a lot of people – especially in the UK – is that the Boks don’t necessarily play the most exciting brand all the time, but it does work.
Of course they can consider England as a favorite and I don’t think there will be a single South African who is upset. Due to the form the team is showing, the South Africans are quietly confident the Boks can come out and put on another great performance before the end of the calendar year.
About the fact that no Springbok player has been nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award, the distinct beauty of this team is that I don’t think a player is bothered by the snub.
The reason I say this is because Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus convinced the players that the team goes first. I can guarantee you that people like Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi will take a step back and say, “Guys, if we win every test match, we would much rather have this than any prize that is awarded to us path on an individual front.
None of the aforementioned players would mind not being on the shortlist. Some have suggested that this was World Rugby’s way of going back to the Boks for Videogate, but I don’t think there are any such personal vendettas involved. The voting panel also had a South African input, so I don’t think anyone is going out of their way to make a statement against South Africa.
The four players on the list have played incredibly well. Did the South African players do a little better? Maybe there are two or three that could have it, but that’s how it is. Among the nominees, I would choose Antoine Dupont as the world player of the year.
The scrum half was exceptional for a team that had its ups and downs at times. He’s fast, strong, has exceptional skills, is competitive and strong defensively. The 25-year-old has been in unreal form and is a game changer and match winner in equal measure.
After an 11-year career with the Saracens, which earned him 264 caps, Neil de Kock now works in the rugby division of the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa. De Kock, who has appeared in 10 test matches for the men in green and gold, provides RugbyPass with expert advice and insight focusing on sides of the Southern Hemisphere and, in particular, the Springboks.
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