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Analysis: Boks add new layer to scrum attack while Wallabies strike clinically

The All Blacks thought they knew what was coming but Rassie Erasmus’ team changed the picture.

LAST WEEK, WE took a look at two clever Springboks attacks from scrums that produced linebreaks for flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit.

One of those breaks resulted in the Boks scoring an important try in their Rugby Championship win over Australia, and it was clear in Saturday’s round two clash with New Zealand that the Kiwis had done their homework.

Unfortunately for the All Blacks, the Boks added a clever new dimension to their scrum play to produce another linebreak.

Rassie Erasmus’ side again used a bounce-back attack on the second phase off a scrum in their own half but then produced a different picture to the one the All Blacks were expecting. 

The Boks work off a scrum close to the right-hand touchline outside their own 22 and, as with last week, use one of their centres to make a direct carry.

Damian de Allende is the man tasked with carrying on this occasion.

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We can see already that the All Blacks are prepared for the Boks, with inside centre Sonny Bill Williams lining up as the first defender off the scrum, where the out-half would often be.

The Wallabies suffered due to Bernard Foley’s relatively weak defence in this channel, so the All Blacks position Williams [circled in white below] there in a bid to prevent the Boks picking on Richie Mo’unga in a similar manner.

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Mo’unga [red above] shifts beyond outside centre Jack Goodhue as well, allowing Goodhue to briefly assist Williams in tackling de Allende before he rejoins the defensive line.

With de Allende having fought over the gainline, Boks 13 Lukhanyo Am and number eight Duane Vermeulen resource the breakdown, with openside Kwagga Smith arriving as third man in. 

Scrum-half Faf de Klerk is fast onto the scene to launch the second phase, and we can see the All Blacks are aware that du Toit is a threat as the Boks bounce back to their right.

Second row Sam Whitelock [white below] is pointing at du Toit [red] as he retreats from the scrum.

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Whitelock and the All Blacks appear to feel they know what’s coming from the Boks.

As de Klerk lifts the ball and du Toit [red below] begins to make his run, Whitelock [white below] is still pointing at the Springboks’ blindside flanker.

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Clearly, the All Blacks have eyes only for du Toit.

If de Klerk does indeed hit the blindside flanker coming on a hard line close to the ruck, there’s a good chance the All Blacks will bury him in the tackle.

But now we see the smarts of the Springboks again as de Klerk instead flashes a long pass wide to Cheslin Kolbe on the touchline, with the wing having remained almost invisible to the All Blacks’ retreating forwards as they worry about du Toit.

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The pass from de Klerk is excellent and finds Kolbe with clear space to run into on the edge.

When we look at the All Blacks’ defence from behind, just as de Klerk’s pass whistles past them, we can see how tight they are [red below].

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There’s 10 metres of space outside last defender Joe Moody, allowing Kolbe to burst forward.

What we can also see above is the beginning of excellent defensive work from All Blacks scrum-half TJ Perenara, who gets back downfield at pace having started on the right-hand side of the defensive breakdown.

Perenara [white above] reacts to the Boks’ switch of direction and drops underneath the breakdown just as de Klerk [yellow above] begins to take off upfield to provide inside support for Kolbe.

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The end result, as we can see above, is that Perenara is in the passing channel between Kolbe and de Klerk.

If Kolbe passes in the instant above, it’s likely Perenara will be able to get a hand to the ball. It’s proactive and important defensive work from the All Blacks scrum-half, even though he doesn’t actually make contact with anyone.

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Instead of passing, Kolbe kicks ahead and, as we can see above, du Toit and Steven Kitshoff end up tackling the covering Beauden Barrett into touch for a Springboks’ attacking lineout in a very promising position.

It’s a wonderfully effective scrum attack from the Boks that intelligently builds on the pictures they showed the previous weekend against the Wallabies in order to outfox the All Blacks.

There were other examples of good scrum attack in the Rugby Championship over the weekend, nowhere more obviously than for the Wallabies’ excellent first-phase try against Argentina finished by wing Reece Hodge, from 1.03 in the video below.

Source: SUPER RUGBY/YouTube

It’s a clinical strike play from the Wallabies to slice the Pumas open and this move intelligently uses the threat of powerful centre pairing Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani to distract the defence.

There is also an element of invisibility to the line that Marika Koroibete runs to make the linebreak off Christian Leali’ifano’s pass.

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We can see the basic initial set-up of attack and defence in the shot above, with Wallabies left wing Koroibete [11] hovering inside out-half Leali’ifano [10]. Centres Kerevi [12] and Kuridrani [13] start in their traditional spots outside Leali’ifano.

The Argentina backline defence is in standard set-up too, with out-half Nico Sánchez [10], inside centre Jeronimo de la Fuente [12] and outside centre Matías Moroni [13] concerned with their opposite numbers. 

Koroibete is obviously a threat but Sánchez will expect openside flanker Tomás Lezana, coming from the scrum, to contribute to the tackle if Leali’ifano pops an inside pass to Koroibete.

As Leali’ifano receives the ball from scrum-half Will Genia, we get a sense of the Wallabies’ movement in attack.

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Kuridrani [yellow] and Kerevi [white] run ‘blocker’ lines outside Leali’ifano, with Kuridrani coming on a hard line back towards the ball and in front of Kerevi in a bid to sit down de la Fuente [12].

Kerevi bounces out the back of Kuridrani in a bid to draw Moroni [13] away from his centre partner.

Leali’ifano [red], meanwhile, is running at the outside shoulder of Sánchez [10] to attract him.

In the moment above, Koroibete [blue] still appears to be a threat on the inside pass option from Leali’ifano, with Lezana [7], Facundo Isa [8] and Tomás Cubelli [9] working across to plug the defensive space on the inside of Sánchez.

But the beauty of this move from the Wallabies is Koroibete’s late shift of running line into the space that Kerevi and Kuridrani’s runs – along with Leali’ifano’s lovely playmaking – create.

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Leali’ifano gets on the ball and cleverly throws a dummy inside pass to Koroibete, further selling that initial possibility.

But Koroibete begins to slide behind Leali’ifano and also behind Kuridrani, who is thundering diagonally infield toward de la Fuente’s inside shoulder.

Leali’ifano turns back out after his dummy and his body language makes it look like he’s going to slip a short pass to Kuridrani, but instead he adds a little more depth and hangtime onto the pass to drop it behind for Koroibete.

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As we can see above, Kerevi has attracted Moroni outfield [white], while Kuridrani’s run has made de la Fuente sit down on his heels [yellow], and Leali’ifano has fixed Sánchez [red] before passing.

That means the rapid Koroibete – who has timed his change of line perfectly to ensure Moroni has no early cues to allow him to react and bite back inwards – can surge onto the ball and cut the Pumas’ frontline defence open.

Once in behind, the Wallabies manage to finish the job.

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Pumas right wing Santiago Cordero [red below] is covering across in the backfield from right to left here and looks like he could get to Koroibete.

But fullback Jaoquín Tuculet [yellow below] is worried about Koroibete using his pace to go all to the way to the tryline and he decides to turn in and tackle the flying Wallabies wing.

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That allows Koroibete to pass to Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale, and though Cordero continues to drift hard across the pitch as Beale then passes to Hodge, the Wallabies right wing is able to adjust back to Cordero’s exposed inside shoulder to finish the try.

The last two passes from the Wallabies are not perfect as Koroibete and Beale move at speed upfield, but Michael Cheika’s men get the job done for a score that would have been particularly pleasing for new attack coach Shaun Berne, formerly of Leinster.

With the Wallabies managing only one try in this game, the importance of set-piece attack was underlined once again.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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