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Statistics can be misleading

As one is wont to do these days, I was almost more interested to see who the referee is for Saturday’s big match between New Zealand and South Africa, than what the teams look like.

Supersport said the following:

The referee is Jerome Garces of France. It will be his fifth test involving South Africa. Of the previous four, South Africa won three and lost one.

“Then they go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like…”:

His last appearance was in November 2014 against Italy in Padova when the Boks won 22-6.

On a more serious note – Brendan Venter made the following comments prior to the Australian game last weekend:

“As a coach, you can instruct your team to play in the right areas of the field and you can focus on constructing a well-functioning set-piece. However, the crux of the matter is that you need players like De Allende to capitalize on opportunities that you create in a match. You can only get the latter part right as a coach by selecting the correct playing personnel. Every coach tries to blend youth with experience, but for me it’s all about form. The player that is hitting form at the right time is going to take that with him into the World Cup. In my view, form equals confidence.”

If I look at the team selected for Saturday, there are eight players who fit this mould: Jesse Kriel, Damien de Allende, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brüssow, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis (at last) and Bismarck. From the reserves, I would include Pat Lambie, Warren Whiteley, Vincent Koch and Trevor Nyakane. That makes twelve, still three short of the required fifteen.

Our single biggest headache last weekend was our poor tactical kicking. In Afrikaans noem ek dit kaktiese skopwerk. The two main culprits are both in the starting line-up. I doubt very much whether they would have been able to sort out their problems in a week. Sure, we can vary our kick-offs by landing the ball just behind the ten-meter line, and at least give ourselves a chance of competing for possession, or instruct Willie le Roux to apply his little chip ahead as an alternative to kicking it down the throat of the opposition fullback every time.

If you thought that the Wallabies loved being given such a surfeit of attacking possession, what won’t the All Blacks do with it? Perish the thought of a Ben Smith or Julian Savea being afforded such luxury.

The NZ Herald reports that Savea has scored 30 tries in 33 tests, but like Jonah Lomu, he has never scored against the Springboks in five attempts.

This is another useless statistic, but a scary one.

The article also quotes Kieran Read on the need for the All Blacks to start well.

“I know the crowd is certainly baying for our blood and we want to get out there as soon as we can,” Read said. “It’s hard to know what’s being said but if we can go out there and play our game and play well, it can do a bit in shutting up the crowd, but we know it’s a big test.”

With the All Blacks having tamed the mighty Argentine pack last week, we should not expect Springbok dominance upfront.

I’m afraid that their backs are, by far, the best in the world, and we will be putting in some serious tackles again this weekend.

Can we beat them?

Well, statistically, we won the last match against them at Ellis Park.

P.S. Just heard that JP Pietersen has withdrawn. My colleague Henk’s dry humour probably best sums up the feeling in this camp: “He must be very disappointed, as he was hoping that the ball would come more his way in this test.”

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