And then there were two…

todayOctober 23, 2023 23

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Only two teams remain in the hunt for the 2023 Rugby World Cup…New Zealand and South Africa. While current rankings do not perhaps list them as the best teams in the world, few can dispute that they are currently the form sides, especially having battled through from the “tough” side of the draw. The way in which they found their way to the final was, however, very different.

The All Blacks were in imperious form on Friday night; but Los Pumas of Argentina were also not, truth be told, on their best form. Whether the All Blacks had just analysed their game plan so completely that the South Americans were simply outplayed while being prohibited from getting their own game plan off the ground, or they were just not really up for the game on the night can be debated ‘ad infinitum’, but there was really only one team on the field on the night. And like it or not, the final scoreline of 44-6 flattered the Argentinians. The result could have been far worse.

The second semi, between England and the Springboks was a very different affair. For most of the game England seemed to have the Southern Hemisphere’s team’s number. They knew what the Springboks were trying to do, and they countered if very effectively – in fact, it again looked like the Springbok team from some time back who would just keep doing the same ineffective thing over and over hoping for a different outcome. But it was different after the “Bomb Squad” came on. There was a change which immediately showed that there was analyses, insight, recognition of inefficiencies and, most importantly, a “plan B” which, in the end, delivered the result. The clever rugby gurus call it “one dimensionality”, but by whatever name it is called, it simply means “no plan B” or at least “no plan B that could work” and for many years that was a major shortcoming of Springbok rugby. But after a win against France and now England, both times by a solitary point but in very different circumstances, it now really seems that they can “adjust on the run” against quality opposition and that is why I think they could go all the way. But more about the final next time…

Written by: Deon v Rensburg

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