Tri-Nations

Bok eight 'monstered' ABs

2011-08-22 10:14
John Smit (Gallo Images)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - The sudden comeuppance for the All Black scrum against the Springboks has commanded much of the post-mortem attention in the New Zealand media.

GALLERY: Springboks v All Blacks

Despite the “experimental” nature of the visiting eight, with several crusty customers rested for the Castle Tri-Nations defeat in Port Elizabeth, scribes were quick to point out the unexpected extent to which they played second fiddle at the set-piece.

It was an area where New Zealand sides generally ruled the roost quite handsomely over South African counterparts in Super Rugby, and then again in the first-leg Tri-Nations meeting when the All Blacks thrashed a second-string Bok side 40-7.

But columnist Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald suggested: “The All Black scrum lost an aura of superiority - big time. The Springbok eight monstered the black pack.

“Conclusion: If Owen Franks and Brad Thorn aren’t there, the All Black scrum can wobble with the best of them. The All Blacks are shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to entertain the return of tighthead Carl Hayman for the World Cup.

“If Owen Franks is injured, the scrum could be in serious trouble because the mobile John Afoa struggles and Ben Franks is not a specialist or as good as his brother.”

Michael Brown of APNZ concurred: “The All Blacks buckled in the scrums against the Springboks at the weekend.

“But Afoa and the fit-again Tony Woodcock are believed to have got the golden ticket ahead of (Crusaders strongman Wyatt) Crockett (for the soon-to-be-announced World Cup squad).

“Crockett is unlucky to miss out after an excellent season but Woodcock’s experience is hard to ignore and Afoa’s greater versatility - he can play both sides of the scrum - appears to have been the clincher.”

Meanwhile Duncan Johnstone, writing in The Waikato Times, zoomed in on Saturday’s flyhalf, Colin Slade, as a source of concern.

“Slade’s mixed performance against the Springboks will have done little to quell the debate over Dan Carter’s backup at No 10.

“Purposefully thrust into the pressure-cooker scenario by the All Blacks coaching staff on the eve of the World Cup selection, Slade failed to produce a game of absolute authority.

“The selectors won’t turn their back on him at this 11th hour but he’s sure to be a talking point with the 30-man cup squad to be named (on Tuesday) and the tournament kick-off almost upon us.

“Is this the man to be the playmaker if Carter goes down? It’s a position of relentless public examination as others have found.”

Former Test scrumhalf Justin Marshall, in The Dominion Post, urged the All Black hierarchy not to panic after the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium reverse.

“Graham Henry, and most importantly his players, must resist any urge to rewrite their game plan and remain as committed as ever to what has served them so successfully in between World Cup years.

“When they inject Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn and Mils Muliaina back into the side all that experience and influence will be far better equipped to face a Springbok side should they find themselves 9-0 down.

“They will not make the same mistakes their more inexperienced deputies did in Port Elizabeth.

“Rest assured their option-taking will be smarter. Their execution will be far more accurate and their ability to absorb pressure and fight fire with fire far greater.

“If anything, the Springboks should have won by more and the fact they didn’t, and never looked like scoring a try, was for me, rather telling.”
 

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