All Blacks will be much better prepared for Springboks' brutal hits

PRETORIA -- It takes a lot to make the All Blacks look foolish and force them out of their comfort zone. It's unusual to see the world champions drop the ball, take suicidal quick lineouts and not make that final, winning pass.

But such was the brutality, accuracy and linespeed of the Springboks' defence in Wellington that the All Blacks were made to look mortal. If you had pricked them with a needle at the Wespac Stadium that night, they would have bled crimson red, although some blood actually flowed on the field too.

Former European Ryder Cup player and captain Paul McGinley once said that momentum is the most important thing in sport. Momentum gives you that mental energy and that little boost to perform at your peak. In Wellington the Boks gained momentum by smashing the All Blacks back in the tackle. And with every hit they believed that they weren't going to lose that match.

Over the last few years the Boks' defence has been too passive and a bit reactive. They waited to see what the opposition will do, instead of making the opposition do what they wanted them to do. There was no linespeed or aggression, and teams dominated the gainline battle. Record defeats by the All Blacks, Italy and Ireland, among others,followed.

But now the Springboks have adopted this new, or maybe not so new, strategy under defence coach Jacques Nienaber with which they want to dominate and create momentum. It's something that they actually started to employ more liberally in their last two matches against the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

The Boks' have an 85.5-percent tackle success rate in the Rugby Championship this year, which is scary as this system they are using of coming hard off the line and defending inwards to cramp the opposition's space hasn't always been perfectly executed. It's definitely the way forward for the Boks.

However, they won't have the element of surprise they enjoyed in Wellington. After two rather tame displays against Argentina in Mendoza and Australia in Durban, the All Blacks probably couldn't believe how determined the Boks were to get in their faces.

They probably also didn't think that the Boks would focus on cutting their ball down at the source, with South African scrumhalf Faf de Klerk hassling All Blacks Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett. The All Blacks, after Cheslin Kolbe's interception, also played into the South Africans' hand by trying to bash it up through the middle, where they were met by a big guy looking to take someone's head off - figuratively speaking.

The All Blacks will definitely have a plan to counter the Bok defence, and it may revolve around Sonny Bill Williams, who missed the Wellington Test because of illness.

Williams is a powerful player, but also one of the best offloaders in the game, and can get that vital pass away no matter what the traffic looks like in front of him. The Springboks have to be careful of trying to pay him too much attention, because he has that slight of hand to make a behind- the-back pass or a flat one to his teammate running a good angle.

The All Blacks will also be a lot more patient on attack, and won't panic when the hits are flying in. They will obviously try to suck in the Boks on defence, before trying to expose them out wide when the South African team's wingers are forced to defend inside.

So, this is where the Springboks' defence needs to be a lot more flexible. You can't always rush out and try to make the dominant hit, especially against an intelligent rugby team like the All Blacks, who will burn you if you're not accurate enough.

The Boks, though, for the most part over the last two matches have made very good decisions on defence. They certainly aren't the finished article in this department, but they have found a recipe that roasted the All Blacks in Wellington. But it's going to be fun to see what the All Blacks come up with to counter it.