John Plumtree does not do ambiguity. In the wake of the shaky centenary test victory the All Blacks forwards coach admits obvious cracks under the high ball ran much deeper in Townsville to the breakdown and set-piece, but he has also called on officials to police the Springboks' go-slow tactics.
Issues for the All Blacks back three under the high ball have been well canvassed after the Springboks stringently stuck to a kick only policy on attack. While the All Blacks planned for a flurry of bombs, they didn't expect those limited tactics to extend to unleashing box kicks from just outside the 22.
Adjustments will be made to positional play and technique but securing high ball is merely one area the All Blacks must make swift improvements before the return test against Boks this Saturday on the Gold Coast.
The All Blacks forward pack laid an impressive platform in three bonus-point victories over the Wallabies and Pumas. Yet that front foot ascendancy immediately halted when they ran smack into the world champions.
As is the theme with problematic All Blacks performances, the South Africans found great success targeting the breakdown. Boks captain Siya Kolisi led the charge but he was not alone as the Boks hoed through the middle to regularly disrupt the All Blacks ability to generate their desired quick, clean ball.
Scrappy delivery contributed to a plethora of handling errors from the All Blacks. A flat backline didn't help counter the Boks' defensive line speed pressure, either, but much of the issues originated at the source.
"We didn't deal with it well in the first half particularly. Our breakdown work wasn't anywhere near the standard it needs to be against the Springboks," Plumtree said. "We couldn't build enough pressure because we were turning too much ball over."
South Africa's dominance upfront extended to the lineout where they stole four throws and - legally or not – nullified the All Blacks driving maul that has been a noted feature in recent weeks.
The Boks defended the maul by stationing their two biggest jumpers in the middle of the lineout, dictating the All Blacks take the risky option of throwing over them, or accept front ball. Forcing the All Blacks to hit their front jumper allowed the Boks to fly in and push attempted drives towards the touchline.
Variations at the lineout will be imperative to amending the Boks dominance.
"There was some marginal stuff going on in terms of the angles," Plumtree said. "We were forced to take a fair bit of front ball because of the way they defend.
"The first time they got penalised for coming in the side, there could have been a couple of other occasions as well, but we're going to have to work out a different strategy around that. They're a pretty big pack and Scott Barrett bore the brunt of a lot of that weight coming in from the side.
"I felt sorry for him – he was getting smacked by three or four Springboks. It was pretty tough work, so we'll have to find a new strategy this week."
The stop-start pace of the 100th test suited the Springboks, too. English referee Luke Pearce contributed to those frustrations by blowing 26 penalties, but Plumtree also took aim at tactics prevalent during the British and Irish Lions series where the Boks used director of rugby Rassie Erasmus to frequently run messages onto the pitch as a water boy.
In addition to slowing the game at lineouts and scrums, the presence of trainers and medics during near every stoppage allowed the Boks to control the lack of speed.
The All Blacks are also well aware that reducing their 23 turnovers, many of those handling errors in contact, will go a long way to lifting the pace.
"We can play the tempo game if we control the ball. If we don't do that then the game will stop and start," Plumtree said. "We can't control the injuries and when their medics and water boys are coming on, the game slows down. I'm pretty sure it's a tactic. No one wants to play a high-speed tempo game against us right now.
"It's up to the officials to deal with that."
Senior All Blacks prop Joe Moody reiterated calls to reduce constant time wasting.
"On the weekend it did get very frustrating. It felt like I was hardly getting a sweat on," Moody said. "It was just about every stoppage someone was going down and having a smoko. It'd be nice if something could be sorted with that side of things by the officiating this weekend."
The All Blacks welcome Richie Mo'unga back into the mix this week. The Crusaders playmaker emerges from two-weeks' quarantine on Tuesday morning after remaining in New Zealand for the birth of his second child, Marley. Given his four-day preparation window, Mo'unga is likely to come off the bench.
Blues openside Dalton Papalii and Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown will be close to proving their fitness after hamstring injuries ruled both out last week.
After withdrawing last Friday night with a stomach bug, Luke Jacobson should also be available to bolster the loose forwards.
The secret to the All Blacks success, prior to meeting the Boks for the first time in two years, was not their flashy offloads but the adherence to doing the dirty work in delivering quality ball.
The forward pack must return to the intent and urgency at the breakdown and accuracy at the set piece – a favoured attacking launchpad.
It's easier said than done, of course, against gnarly South African behemoths, but winning the physical battle will transform this week's rematch.