The Springboks deployed some unusual tactics ahead of their World Cup clash with Ireland.
Ireland’s Rugby World Cup pool stage rivals South Africa laid down an ominous pre-tournament marker on Friday evening, as they claimed a record 35-7 win over the All Blacks.
Meeting at Twickenham, the battleground for the two sides’ 2015 World Cup final encounter, the Springboks ran riot in a five-try rout over the Rugby Championship winners.
Despite the Springboks apparent peaking at the perfect time, the result will have brought some smiles to Irish faces, with the All Black’s defeat meaning that Ireland will retain their spot atop of the world rankings should they defeat Samoa in Bayonne on Saturday night.
Andy Farrell and his coaching staff will no doubt have had an eye on proceedings in London for more analytical reasons though, with three Springbok tactics in particular standing out:The Boks went with a unique 7/1 split on the bench against the All Blacks. (Credit: Getty Images)
1. Springboks utilise unique bench split:
Traditionally, one of rugby’s great debates has been whether or not sides should opt for a 5/3 or 6/2 split between forwards and backs on the bench.
However, the Springboks took that debate to even greater lengths against the All Blacks, selecting a unique 7/1 split, leaving just scrum half Cobus Reinach as the sole backline option on the substitute’s bench.
In a move which clearly signals the Boks intended game plan ahead of the Rugby World Cup, the selection of seven forward substitutes highlights their wanting to physically dominate their opponents up front and allow their starting pack to empty the tank.
Even more fascinating was the fact that all seven forwards entered the field of play together on the 47th minute, seeing the issue of tiring legs in the pack never rear its head.
Should Andy Farrell opt to match the Boks bench split to mitigate any potential advantages gained at set-piece and the breakdown, or does he back the fitness of his forwards to withstand a fresh South African pack?Canan Moodie starred in his first start at centre for the Springboks. (Credit: Getty Images)
2. Ireland should be wary of Springboks new backline threat:
20-year-old Canan Moodie made his first Test start at centre for the Springboks on Friday night, lining up across from the rampaging pairing of the All Black’s Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett.
However, the seven cap rookie was unfazed by the task before him, and alongside man-of-the-match Damian Willemse, he managed to steal the show in a star-studded backline.
Proving to be much more than the traditional battering ram-styled Springbok centre, Moodie acted both finisher and provider on the night, scoring a disallowed try in the opening minutes alongside a host of deft touches across the full 80.
Speaking ahead of the Springboks victory, assistant coach Mzwandile Stick described the Bulls utility back as someone who “has got what it takes to become one of those great outside centres.”
With Garry Ringrose’s centre partner still up in the air as Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki battle it out for the 12 shirt, Ireland should be wary of too much chopping and changing in midfield ahead of the challenge which Moodie will pose on September 23rd.
3. Territory is king against misfiring Boks attack:
Despite racking up five tries against a near-full strength All Blacks XV, upon a second look at the evening’s statistics, it appears the Springbok attack actually endured a misfire of sorts.
Entering the All Blacks 22 on 16 separate occasions during the game, the Boks five tries equate to a conversion rate of less than a third, a far from favourable return for an attack which includes such physicality upfront and prowess in the backline.
Armed with this knowledge, the Boks may have inadvertently provided Andy Farrell and the Irish coaching staff the blueprint to overcome the reigning World Champions.
Dominating territory is always a goal heading into any Test match, but even more so against this Springbok side. In limiting their entries into the Irish 22, a side with a conversion rate just 31% could struggle to break down a resolute Irish defence from the middle portion of the pitch.
Although Ireland have embarked on a technical and mental evolution under both Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell, a reverting to type of sorts and embracing the Ronan O’Gara tact of playing the percentages may be Ireland’s best bet at circumventing the Springboks forward threat.
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