Mallett: Boks’ aerial skills were shocking

Nick Mallett (Gallo Images)
Nick Mallett (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Former national coach Nick Mallett was left disappointed after the Springboks failed to beat an under-strength Wales outfit in Cardiff on Saturday.

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Wales, who played without several of their stars, won 24-22 to record their third straight home victory over South Africa.

“I think it was a missed opportunity for the Boks in Cardiff against a weak Welsh team. I know they’ll say that the Boks were also missing players, but South Africa have a far greater strength in depth than Wales. It’s a very disappointing loss and it brings it now to seven wins out of 13, which is a 53% win record this year, to add on to the 33% of last year; which makes it an overall win percentage of 44%. It has been quite disappointing over these past two years,” Mallett said on SuperSport post-Test.

Mallett lamented the defensive vulnerabilities of the Springboks, especially when Wales kicked in behind them.

The Welsh raced to a 14-0 lead after just eight minutes, with the Springboks unable to deal with high kicks.

“If we think of this game in totality and look at the way Wales played, they created many more opportunities than we did. They played good rugby on the front foot and they tried to speed the game up. Our aerial skills were shocking. We really were hopeless under the high ball and missed too many opportunities there. Their kicks always seemed to find space,” Mallett continued.

“You can’t give a team 14 points straight off the bat in the first 15 minutes from poor defensive positional play when playing away from home. It’s a big start in a game like this. We fought our way back and got ahead at one point but unfortunately we weren’t able to finish it off.”

Warrick Gelant, normally a fullback, was played out of position on the wing and this cost the Boks, Mallett believes.

“I thought it cried out for some changes in that backline. I thought at half-time they could have looked at the game and said Warrick Gelant deserves at least 40 minutes in his proper position at fullback. Dillyn Leyds had a good game on the wing, so keep him there, Jesse Kriel has played wing before so he could have been moved to that position and brought Lukhanyo Am on at (outside) centre as early as possible. Handre Pollard should have been kept on the field and the replacement scrumhalf (Louis Schreuder) should have got 20 minutes because after an hour any starting scrumhalf has run a lot and the team gets more momentum out of the replacement No 9. So those are the changes I would have made.”

Mallett highlighted positive aspects from the game, but rued the fact that the Boks could not turn it into a victory.

“We did say the Boks have to dominate the scrum to win the game and they did throughout the game. We were pretty dominate in the set piece. Our lineout was good and the driving maul was fine. We played off No 9 a lot with our forwards. What I noticed is that when we kept the ball in hand, we made yards. It was just a question of having confidence to keep possession, pass accurately and make good decisions. The Welsh are actually not a physical side in terms of their defence.

“I think when you saw Gelant and our backline play particularly in that counter-attack when we scored a try, it showed our players have an understanding of using the ball in their hands. They don’t seek physical contact, they seek to commit a tackler and pass and if the defender is not committed they break the line.

“The positives out of this game were Steven Kitshoff and Malcolm Marx’s performances and our general tight forward play. But our ability to create opportunities left much to be desired. There must have been at least six or seven scoring opportunities for Wales and two or three for South Africa. We just didn’t create enough chances. We were only two points behind, so a drop goal or a penalty could have won us the game. There needs to be some sort of intelligence and leadership in our ranks.”

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