Rugby Championship: Nick Mallett can’t see how All Blacks can beat the Springboks

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Former South Africa head coach Nick Mallett believes that the Springboks are clear favourites for their Rugby Championship double-header with the All Blacks.

The world champions warmed up for the annual international tournament with a tight 2-1 series victory over Wales recently.

New Zealand, meanwhile, suffered a disappointing 2-1 reversal at the hands of Ireland, a result which has thrown them into disarray.

Scrutiny has increased on the already under pressure head coach Ian Foster, who last year presided over their worst season since 2009.

Matters don’t seem to have improved for the All Blacks in 2022 following their defeat to the Irish and they face another tough assignment in just over two weeks’ time.

Although South Africa struggled to put away the Welsh, the fundamentals of their game were strong, especially in the third Test, and Mallett insists that Foster’s men will struggle to compete in the set-piece.

Scrum struggles

“New Zealand don’t have a dominant scrum,” he wrote in his Sport24 column. “In all their competitions, they are using the scrum to launch a strike, not to win penalties. The props who play for the New Zealand franchises are generally good ball players who handle well and make good cleanouts and decisions.

“Scrummaging is something they obviously concentrate on, but not to the extent where they want to win penalties. It’s about winning the ball under reasonable circumstances and then playing the phases.

“When they play a team like South Africa, it’s a completely different situation because the Boks don’t want to move the ball from the scrum, they want to win a penalty from the scrum. Have New Zealand got two tightheads and looseheads capable of lasting 80 minutes against the South African pack? I don’t believe they have.

“Once you give scrum penalties away against the Boks, that sets up their whole territorial game. They kick for touch, they maul off lineouts and put teams and referees under immense pressure there.

“The ability to stop South Africa playing decent rugby starts at scrum time where you have to stop them winning penalties, and I’m not sure that New Zealand can do that given how they struggled against Ireland.

“I think when you look at the front row power the Springboks have on the bench in every Test, this is a clear area of advantage.”

The All Blacks will also be without important second-row Brodie Retallick, who is a massive part of their front five.

Facing imposing Springbok locks

Mallett added: “At lock, Brodie Retallick is irreplaceable and world-class, and missing him is huge. He will be replaced by a competent lock, but not of the international quality of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager.

“South Africa have so much quality in the tight five, and the All Blacks just don’t match up there. New Zealand’s loose trio is made up of openside flankers and a mobile number eight, and Ardie Savea is the best of the bunch.

“He should be playing openside in place of Sam Cane, in my opinion, who I don’t think is playing well enough to justify his position in the side even if he is a good captain.

“They also need to get a ball-carrying No 8 and a big ruck-hitting blindside flanker, and also look for a guy of 6ft4, 6ft5 as a lineout option who would have stopping power against South Africa’s ball carriers.

“I’m not sure they have that physicality when they field three fetcher-like players who are quite small when compared to South Africa. New Zealand have a lot of guys coming onto the field who all look the same to me, and there is nobody really standing out.”

READ MORE: Scrum-half Faf de Klerk confident Japan move won’t derail Springboks career

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