Something to Build On
The Wallabies draw with South Africa was not a brilliant performance, but the result has helped steady the ship after losing both test matches v New Zealand in the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship.
Draws are never easy for players, supporters or coaches to get their heads around because we’re all hard wired to win. However, a draw is definitely better than a loss and, if nothing else, this result in Perth is something for the Wallabies to build on.
In this column we’re going to look at the four tries scored and put some detail around the execution.
The Turnover Tries
After a tough week for Australian Rugby things did not start that well for the Wallabies. They were inaccurate at the breakdown and the Springboks took advantage of some poor clean-out work to post the first try of the match.
It has to be said that Israel Folau usually dominates the collision when he carries into contact but the dominant tackle from the big South African Lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit was the main reason for the loss of possession.
If you focus on the work he does immediately after the tackle you’ll see a terrific second effort to counter ruck and force the turnover. You can coach many things but desire comes from deep within. This is a great clip for any schoolboys locks to learn from.
The Wallabies response to conceding the first try was excellent. They used a short kick off to win the ball in an effort to strike back immediately having conceded points.
This is an area of the game that all good teams are working hard on. We all know that the try scoring teams can relax having posted a try and are vulnerable to a counter punch. This is exactly what happened for the second try.
The Wallabies nailed the restart with Bernard Foley chipping a perfect kick to Folau and the Wallabies steamed ahead in support with Adam Coleman and company. From the quick ruck ball it really looked like the Wallabies would score in the left corner as the Springboks had only one defender outside of the far goal-post.
However, with Michael Hooper indicating late for Will Genia to pass behind him to Folau, things got messy. That’s when Kurtley Beale’s instincts took over. He realised Folau was not expecting the pass from Genia, so he turned and mopped it up. What happened next was pure genius as Beale waved the ball in two hands, mesmerising the Springbok defence and scoring one of the best individual tries we’ve seen so far in the Rugby Championship. He’s a class act and we’re lucky to have him back in the Gold jersey.
The Drive Tries
The Wallabies were the first to strike after the break and they did so with a well taken drive from a lineout 5m from the Springbok try line. At this close range it’s unusual for test teams to contest in the air but the South Africans did so and their lack of respect for the Wallaby pack cost them.
You will notice that Eben Etzebeth is lifted at the front of the lineout and the Wallabies win the ball well behind him. The effect of Etzebeth contesting at the front of the lineout meant the Springboks lost three forwards (Etzebeth and both props) from the drive contest. Even when Etzebeth attempts to join the drive he is pinned to the side of the maul by Conrad Oosthuizen and their joint effort spins and propels the Wallabies drive through what is left of the the Springbok pack.
Going forward I think the Springboks will all stay on the ground to defend the Wallabies drives when they are 5m from their own line.
The Springboks scored the next drive try in response to the Wallabies effort and it was Eben Etzebeth that won the ball and set the foundation for their drive. The Wallabies kept all their forwards on the ground despite the fact that they were 20m from their own try line but, even with all hands to the pump, they could not stop the Springbok drive.
Against such a big pack it’s surprising the Wallabies didn’t try and sack Etzebeth as he landed. Once the South African pack got set they were perfect in the execution. All of the Springbok forwards had great body shape and they were all square to the try line. Again, perfect technique to show any schoolboy (or schoolgirl) forward pack.
One Last Thing
The Wallabies have struggled for a long time at the scrum without Sekope Kepu at tight head and Tatafu Polotu-Nau at hooker. The Springboks certainly capitalised when Sekope Kepu was replaced.
In this last clip you’ll see the Springbok back-up loose head, Steven Kitshoff, build enormous pressure on Allan Alaalatoa and win a potential match-winning penalty for South Africa.
It can be a very unforgiving place in the front row in test match rugby. Tight heads have a massive job on their hands to contain destructive loose heads. The next test for the Wallabies won’t get any easier, as they go head-to-head with the Pumas who always have some of the best scrummagers in world rugby.
The young Wallaby back-up props need to learn fast. They have a great coach in Mario Ledesma, but we are currently vulnerable at scrum time when Polota-Nau and Kepu are not scrummaging together. This is usually at the back end of games when the bench are expected to finish the job.
It’s a coaching challenge for Michael Cheika and Mario Ladesma. Young props take time to grow, and international coaches are expected to get results.