Springboks’ Evolving Playing Style in Rugby World Cup Defense


Summary: South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, reveals the team’s focus on enhancing their running game to complement their traditional power game. After a scintillating victory over France, the defending champions are aiming to retain the title and secure a record fourth win. The Springboks have recognized the need to adapt their play to stay ahead of the competition, relying on playmaking flyhalf Manie Libbok to release the backline more frequently. This tactical shift has resulted in an increase in backline tries, with a greater emphasis on open, fluent, running rugby.

South Africa’s Springboks, known for their powerful playing style, are aiming to enhance their running game in the Rugby World Cup defense. The team’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, acknowledges the importance of adapting their tactics to stay ahead of the competition. Despite their focus on winning rather than aesthetics, the Springboks aim to score more tries.

In the 2019 World Cup, the Springboks heavily relied on scrummaging, lineout mauls, and tactical kicking. However, Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber realize that to maintain an advantage, they need to complement their pack of forwards with another method of attack. This led to a tactical shift that involves unleashing the potential of playmaking flyhalf Manie Libbok to release the skillful backs, such as Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse, more frequently. In their recent victory over France, three out of four South Africa tries were scored by backs, showcasing their evolving playing style.

Erasmus attributes this change to the team’s loss against France last year, which exposed the weaknesses of their previous playing style. He also highlights the challenges referees face when officiating the Springboks’ close-contact work. By diversifying their playing approach and incorporating open, fluent, running rugby, the Springboks aim to create clearer decisions for referees and increase their opportunities to score. This tactical adjustment is particularly noticeable in their increased backline tries, with the speedsters responsible for 76% of their tries in the ongoing World Cup.

Looking ahead, the Springboks face England in the semifinals, who have recognized their newfound willingness to attack out wide. England’s attack coach, Richard Wigglesworth, acknowledges the threats posed by South Africa’s skillful runners and their ability to find space early in the game. As the Springboks strive to secure their fourth World Cup title, their evolving playing style will be pivotal in their defense.

Tags: Springboks, Rugby World Cup, playing style, tactical shift, backline tries, adaptation, evolution, power game, running rugby, semifinals