Tank Lanning

And if Januarie hadn't scored?

2008-09-05 05:45

Tank Lanning

So let's for a moment imagine that the ball had not bounced perfectly for Ricky Januarie in Dunedin on Saturday, but instead gone over his head... to be swooped on by Leon MacDonald, who then managed to get it out to Ma'a Nonu, who in turn went the length of the field to score under the poles. Carter never misses so the Boks would have lost the match by 12 points.

Would we then have been so quick to forgive stand in captain, Victor Matfield, his 71st minute yellow card? Would we all then have been so happy with the performance of Joe van Niekerk and his replacement, Luke Watson?

Yes, I know I am probably going to be the most hated man in South Africa for even suggesting the like, but luckily I was born with a rhino hide to cover the Black Label-induced permanent duvet I have developed in my time on earth... made even thicker by my indulgence in a few large portions of humble pie this weekend!

Sure I disagreed with Peter de Villiers on a few of his selections, and still do... imagine if Pierre Spies or Ryan Kankowski had been around to unleash themselves on the All Blacks on Saturday? But that did not stop me from wanting the Boks to win. I really am chuffed for the team and the coaching staff.

Entertaining Test match

All I am pointing out is that were it not for Januarie's individual brilliance, the Boks would probably have lost the Test. Yes, the Bok defence held strong, but for long periods of the second half it was the All Blacks who were running the show. The key, though, is that the Boks were in the game, and took their single chance to win a seriously tight and amazingly entertaining Test match and that in itself is very exciting.

All I am suggesting is a little calmness among the deserved celebrations...

There were several things that the Boks did to improve on their performance from the week before - and most have been well documented.

The scrum was monumentally better than the week before. Massive congrats to props Gurthro Steenkamp and CJ van der Linde for really turning their games around.

Januarie was in phenomenal form. Apart from the try, the man, perhaps influenced by the fact that Fourie du Preez is making his way back into the game, produced an all round game that was much more attacking and influential. Adi Jacobs was very good indeed on attack. In general, the Boks were just much more confident. Right from facing the Haka, which they did with such grace and confidence, they looked like they were meant to be there.

They also played superbly under the ELVs which made them more enterprising on attack. The Bok defence was phenomenal. The All Blacks were on fire for large periods of the second half, but the Boks kept them out!


But it was the Bok lineout that had me spraying beer like it was champagne. Not because it was again in fantastic form, especially on All Black ball where their ability to compete (and disrupt or better, steal) was probably the biggest factor in setting up the win. Nope. It was the fact that the Boks were the first international side to make use of short lineouts under the new rules, and it proved to be a masterstroke!

The two newest ELVs - the ability to pull down a rolling maul and the fact that numbers are not policed in the lineout - were seemingly not affecting the game at all.

Until Saturday.

Two or three times, the Boks had just three men in the lineout. And because of Matfield's prowess in this area of the game, the Boks were still guaranteed the ball. This led to one of two things - either the All Blacks were forced to have more numbers in or near the lineout to counter a possible move or drive, meaning that the Boks could have greater numbers out wide, OR, caught off guard, the All Blacks twice joined the lineout before it had been completed, giving the Boks a penalty.

It was always going to be interesting to see which side would be first to take this risk and it is credit to whoever made the brave call for the Boks to be the first to give it a go. Initially thought to be a rule implemented just to make the referees life easier, it is actually a phenomenal tool for a team that has a lineout that is as good as the Green and Gold machine.

Now having seen it in action, obviously other teams will follow and it could be a rule that really does add a little sparkle to the current game.

In my book, any rule that gets a team to run the ball more is a good one. And a team that has more attackers than the opposition has defenders, given that a few will be defending any trickery in the shortened lineout, will be more inclined to run the ball...

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

    Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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