Springboks prefer to talk up All Blacks rather than focusing on weak points

Springboks assistant coach Johann van Graan said they learned "one or two things" from the All Blacks' series against ...
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Springboks assistant coach Johann van Graan said they learned "one or two things" from the All Blacks' series against the British and Irish Lions.

The Springboks aren't rushing to talk about specific All Blacks vulnerabilities, let alone the one perceived as their biggest, ahead of this weekend's Rugby Championship clash at Albany.

Much has been and is being made of how a defence that bursts off its line can throw a normally rampant New Zealand attack of its stride.

Designed to shut down space and prevent width for some of the world's best with ball in hand, the tactic was implemented by Ireland during their historic win in Chicago and used by the British and Irish Lions to help them earn a series draw on Kiwi soil just a couple of months ago.

And although they weren't ultimately victorious, Australia and Argentina used a similar approach with intermittent success during the past month.

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Given that evidence, it would be a surprise if the Springboks didn't also go down the route of a rush defence.

But if there were any plans to do so at QBE Stadium on Saturday night, the visitors weren't about to tip their old rivals off. Or talk too much about the topic at all.

"Watching [the Lions series] from at home in South Africa, it was a special series," assistant coach Johann van Graan said on Tuesday regarding what they had made of how the All Blacks had dealt with their opponents' line speed in recent matches.

"They were three unbelievable tests. It's important to learn from other opposition, and mix that with what we are strong with.

"There were key moments [in the Lions series] that made it a draw. We learned one or two things but we will just focus on our defence."

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It is highly likely one of those learnings was the effectiveness of what is also know as an umbrella or blitz-style defensive system.

It is also almost certain that was something Springboks head coach Allister Coetzee was referring to on Monday when he said the All Blacks did not have weaknesses but were vulnerable.

Coetzee did not delve into specifics and, asked to do so the following day, van Graan did not either.

In fact, the South African assistant took the opposite angle, lavishing the All Blacks with praise despite their at-times less than polished performance since the start of the Lions' series.

"They have a fantastic scrum, they've won something like 30 out of 30 scrums on their own ball over the past six test matches," van Graan said.

"Their above 95 per cent with their lineouts, they've scored the most tries from scrums in the world this year, and they have a pretty special defence.

"There's no real weaknesses I can see. We will just focus on ourselves and hopefully come up with a good performance."

Whether or not that transpires remains to be seen.

But based on the rejuvenation they have put on display during their past five matches, and the home side's struggles to find their best so far in 2017, the Springboks appear a good chance to at least push the All Blacks close.

A few extra supporters than they are used to in New Zealand, given the high number of South African's based on Auckland's North Shore, also won't do their fortunes any harm.

It was not a factor, though, the visitors were banking on getting them across the line.

"It's another game at the end of the day," wing Courtnall Skosan said. "It's 80 minutes we have to play, be it home or away.

"Obviously if you're at home you have a bit of an advantage with the crowd behind you but we are still playing an away game and it's New Zealand in New Zealand.

"It's still going to be a tough challenge for us to get the result."

 - Stuff

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