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By Johan Ackermann

Coach and former player


Johan Ackermann: Bench-sitters, early points by Boks will pile pressure on All Blacks

Boks' 7-1 bench worked before against All Blacks ... so why not again?


It could not have been scripted better … the Springboks against the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup final once again. Brilliant! And what a match awaits us — like on most occasions between these teams, it’s going to be all about Bok power and intensity against All Black skill and pace. There’s not a lot between these teams and let’s not look back at the Twickenham game in August to measure this All Blacks side; they’re much-improved since then, but the big question remains: have they improved enough to be a threat to the Boks, over 80 minutes?…

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It could not have been scripted better … the Springboks against the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup final once again. Brilliant!

And what a match awaits us — like on most occasions between these teams, it’s going to be all about Bok power and intensity against All Black skill and pace.

There’s not a lot between these teams and let’s not look back at the Twickenham game in August to measure this All Blacks side; they’re much-improved since then, but the big question remains: have they improved enough to be a threat to the Boks, over 80 minutes?

I don’t think so.

The Boks have showed their hand; they’re going to look to dominate up front and hit the All Blacks hard for the full 80-plus minutes. And we know now that opposition teams struggle to go the distance against the Boks; they’re relentless and there’s no let up.

It’s that 7-1 Bok bench again that will worry the All Blacks.

Twickenham dry run

And I say again, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber knew exactly what they were doing when they first picked a 7-1 bench, at Twickenham; it was a dry run and it worked brilliantly that day, with the Boks winning 35-7. So why not go with it again? I’m not at all surprised by the decision.

But, if I were the coach I would have liked an extra back on the bench, maybe Cobus Reinach, just in case there are some serious injuries early on. But, obviously Rassie and Jacques have planned for all scenarios and have each position covered.

It really is a calculated gamble and one that the All Blacks won’t like.

I think it’s going to be a close game early on, with the Boks backing their forwards-defence game against the All Blacks’ pace-tempo-passing game. The aerial battle will also be a key part of it; the Boks haven’t been great lately in that area and the All Blacks dominated in the air in Auckland earlier this year.

Score early, pile on the pressure

Hopefully the Boks can score the first try or kick some early penalties and get ahead because that would heap the pressure on the All Blacks, knowing what is still to come later in the game. And that scoreboard pressure and them seeing the Bok bench could hurt the All Blacks’ players confidence and mood … knowing what happened at Twickenham.

As I’ve said, the Bok bench players will define the outcome of the final. Will the All Blacks be able to handle and deal with the intensity and power in the second half and in the final 15 to 20 minutes?

I hope the weather will be good and we see some high-quality rugby. I also hope there are no controversial moments or incidents that spoil the game.

It’s going to be an emotional affair, with the winner to become the unofficial best team of all-time, by winning a fourth title. Who’ll also deal best with that pressure?

Here’s hoping for a thrilling game, and the Boks coming out on top!

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