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Martin Devlin: Don't panic - the AB's have got this

Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Friday, 20 September 2019, 1:00PM

Panic not people. The All Blacks have got this. 

And no matter what happens tomorrow night let's be clear: This match vs SA is neither the end of the beginning nor the beginning of the end of our World Cup.

Heck yes it IS important, and it's also a pool match - let's not forget that. Just like Spark's coverage tomorrow night, if it all goes wonky there IS plenty of time to fix things before the major knock-out matches.

After looking at both line-ups and re-watching the last 2 matches between us, I'm approaching this test with increasing confidence.

In both Pretoria last year and Wellington this, the South African gameplan was simple, physical and confrontational. Rugged continuous contact keeping ball in hand.

There was no backline to speak of. Their #12 never met his outside centre, no point really, no contact between the two except for being matching gateposts in a fenceline we'll always find hard to impregnate. Recently coach Erasmus said they expect to play without the ball but in both Pretoria/Wellington that's in fact what we did in both first halves.

Paramount for the All Blacks is to retain our own ball, secure possession,protect it, keep it, soak up time and play as much as possible in their half.

Do I really need to point out that, like all other global games called "football", you can't score without it so maintaining possession will be vital. Only then can we look to inject our pace wherever possible, take advantage of any gaps and half gaps, exploit those 1-on-1 match-ups where we can scorch them for speed.

Playing a physically confronting game, like they'll look to do, is not our plan  and even less so knowing Sonny Bill won't start at 12. His physical dominance, single-handed ability to break tackles, assault the gainline and offload will be a much anticipated boost when impacting off the bench sometime in the 2nd half.

Having Ben Smith on the bench is another selection masterstroke. We all know we'll get 30-40mins superb rugby from him, something that his body just can't guarantee anymore over the full 80.

We have a very small backline here folks. There is no powerhouse in the form of a Nonu, Julian Savea, Waisake so it's so important we play smart and accurate.

Up front we're also lacking one very tall timber bloke with Scott Barrett certainly abrasive enough but not the sort of obvious lineout threat Brodie will eventually bring back.

Without doubt this is the toughest and most important pool match we've faced at any World Cup. It's as exciting, unpredictable and nerve-wracking as any test we've faced since the last tournament.

But as I said earlier, we go in as back-to-back defending champs and the team to beat.

I don't want to put the Devlin curse on it. But I think we've got this.

We know how to win World Cups. The last two tournaments prove it.

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