Kolbe in need of speedsters in support play
By Mike Godfrey
In the Rugby World Cup 2019 opening fixture the Japanese team kept the 72000 capacity crowd on the edge of their seats when they beat a gallant Russia 33 - 10. Japan's, South African born right winger Kotaro Matsushima became the first-ever player to score a hat-trick in a Rugby World Cup game.
The eagerly anticipated game of the weekend saw the All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen get one over his counterpart, Rassie Erasmus. Their game plan out wide exposed the Boks lack of pace and ingenuity. Rassie surely will have nightmares about the below standard performances of his key players.
The high ball kicking tactics from the base of the rucks was atrocious, to say the least with the receiving All Black having sufficient time to take the ball cleanly, setting up pre-planned counter attacks with little to no effective follow-up defence to put the ball recipient under pressure.
They lacked the pace to match the All Blacks, especially fullback Beauden Barrett, wingers Sevu Reece, George Bridge, scrum half Aaron Smith and flanker Ardie Savea.
Their first attacking movement saw Savea up in support to pass to Barrett who sent winger George Bridge away for a brilliantly worked try.
Their second came when Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard failed to take the high ball which was snapped up by their classy scrum half Aaron Smith carving through the speed less Bok defense before passing the ball to lock forward Scott Barrett who powered more than twenty metres to score.
Bok winger Cheslin Kolbe was caught in the "three-prong" All Black defense on numerous occasions after blistering runs. Kolbe had the opposition defender running in circles slowing him down and enabling the hard chasing Richie Mo'unga to catch and bundle him into touch.
What fantastic runs by Kolbe that petered out due to lack of support which can be resolved should Erasmus add some speedy players like flanker Kwagga Smith and Herschel Jantjies to his starting line up. Also, the mobility of the front row can be bolstered with the selection of Saracens tighthead prop Vincent Koch.
The Springbok did score a well-deserved try as flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit burst through the middle when New Zealand players were caught out wide.
Referee Jerome Garces was given the thumbs up by Erasmus in the post-match interview but be certain this was with 'tongue in cheek.' Garces missed the All Blacks entering the rucks from the side while he penalized the Boks. Absurdly he also penalized the Bok front row when it was clear the All Black front-rower had put his elbow on the ground for extra support.
Italy topped Pool B with a 47 - 22 bonus point victory over Namibia. Ireland signaled that they mean business in scoring four tries against Scotland, winning 27 - 3. The England vs Tonga game was a much tougher encounter than the 35 - 3 win for England suggests. This inexperienced England side would have learned a lot from the bruising 80 minutes.
Towering former Border flanker of the late 1970’s era, Mike Godfrey will be sharing his insights and opinions with our readers through the duration of Rugby World Cup 2019. Mike also played for the SA Navy senior team, captained the Wanderers Rugby Club 1st XV in SWA, Namibia and toured England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland with an East London Golden Oldies in 1991.