Rugby Union

Autumn internationals will be a litmus test for Northern Hemisphere teams

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Listening to the post-match press conference after yet another epic test match between the All Blacks and Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg earlier this month, Steve Hansen, the New Zealand coach, made it inadvertently evident what opposing teams need to do to beat his undisputed world champion side.

The All Blacks suffered only their first defeat in two years at the hands of the Springboks whom, in Hansen’s opinion, put them under pressure from the start. He pointed out that when the All Blacks did get first phase ball in the first half it wasn’t great quality due to the pressure the Springboks exerted on his side.

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All Blacks pressure

The All Blacks could not build pressure of their own in the first half because they could not keep possession. In the second half when they got possession and could exert pressure they scored tries and put themselves in with a chance of winning the match.

In the Autumn internationals, the Home Nations can stay competitive with the world champions if they can copy the blueprint set by the Springboks by putting the All Blacks under continuous and sustained pressure and starving them of possession for long periods of time.

Litmus test

Although the Springboks did not win the Rugby Championship, they can take immense confidence going into a World Cup year having beaten the world’s best team. If it is to be a Northern hemisphere team to lift the Web Ellis Cup next year, the Autumn internationals will be a good litmus test to see if they can be competitive or even beat the world's best teams in consecutive weeks.

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