Three key questions: What are the All Blacks' weaknesses?

Herald rugby writers Gregor Paul and Patrick McKendry answer three key questions ahead of the Rugby Championship international between the All Blacks and South Africa tonight.

Will tonight's test be the mismatch everyone expects it to be?
Gregor Paul: No. The Boks are going to revert to a more traditional South Africa game and tighten up. That will make them harder to break down and it would be a surprise if there is much between the two teams after 60 minutes. The All Blacks will most likely find a way to push ahead in the final quarter but maybe not as dramatically as they did against the Pumas. Might be 10-12 points in it by the end.

Patrick McKendry: Yes. The weather is fantastic which will aid the All Blacks' running game, and they are full of self belief and ideas, compared with the Boks, who are low on both.

It might be relatively tight initially, but the All Blacks have the potential to cut the Boks to pieces in the quarter - just like they did against the Pumas. South Africa's performance against the Wallabies last weekend was dire. I just can't see them making the required improvements in a week. They might have physicality and intent, but I don't think they have much else.

Eddie Jones talked about 'significant weaknesses' in the All Blacks. What are they?
Gregor Paul: Best to ask Eddie what he thinks he saw. The All Blacks have weaknesses like every other team. They aren't perfect. But significant might be pushing it. They are vulnerable to a rush defence pushing outside in and they need to tidy up their defence and protection around the fringes of the ruck.

Patrick McKendry: The All Blacks rely on quick ball at the breakdown - the type known at the elite level as "lightning quick ball". That allows them to create overlaps, or mismatches - ie backs on forwards and it's here that Beauden Barrett is so dangerous. Tie the All Blacks up at the breakdown and slow their ball and you make it more difficult for them. It's a fine line, though, because commit too many players there and you are light elsewhere. Plus, you're in danger of giving away penalties.

I'm not sure that's a significant weakness as Jones says. The England coach has done well since he has taken over, and is clearly full of confidence as usual, but his team's whitewash of Australia in June has to be put into perspective. That's a poor Wallabies team and the All Blacks beat them far more convincingly.

What impact do you think last week's early benching of Aaron Smith will have on the half-back?
Gregor Paul: It will have been a good reminder to him that even after 50-plus caps, nothing has changed - it's core role first, second and third. He doesn't have to fix things he can't control - or do things he hasn't been asked to do. All he has to do is clear the ball as quickly and accurately as he can and the expectation is that he will do exactly that for 70-minutes tonight.
Patrick McKendry: Not a lot. He's the best halfback in the world so being taken off early against Argentina because he was having a slightly off night won't affect his game. However, he might be more wary about engaging with the referee as much. Just before he was replaced by TJ Perenara, Smith was told by Craig Joubert that he was in danger of being penalised if he kept up his dialogue. Lesson learned - probably.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 10 Dec 2016 21:56:04 Processing Time: 462ms