Loose forward contrasts could hold key to win in Yokohama

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South African rugby writer Rob Houwing said a contest between Springbok 'warhorses' Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit on the side of the scrum or New Zealand's 'whippets' Sam Cane and Ardie Savea could decide the outcome.


New Zealand, in choosing to play Savea, where not fielding the 'big-timber blindsider of the more customarily modern kind – often a player capable of doubling as a lock because of his generous physical dimensions, lineout-specialist qualities and brawn-laden style of play at close quarters', he said.


"It is just another sign that head coach Steve Hansen hasn't been fully enamoured with his more specialist blindside options since the retirement from international rugby after 81 caps at the end of 2017 of now French-based and 36-year-old Jerome Kaino," Houwing said on sport24.co.za.


"Savea has a tough edge and the fevered, zealous energy of a Schalk Burger, but at 1.88m and 103kg he will surrender a fair bit in blindside physical proportions to South Africa's in-form du Toit, a former second-row staple figure who stands two metres and used to tip the scales around 120kg (he has consciously shed several of those kilos to cater for the mobility-related demands of his newer, highly successful stationing in the Bok No.7 shirt)."


Adding to the clash of styles was the fact that Kolisi, at 1.89m, was taller than most openside flankers.

South Africans felt if the game was played on a wet pitch, then the 'more grunt-laden attributes offered by du Toit and Kolisi could come in handy for a tense, low-risk sort of arm wrestle'.


"But where Hansen will be hoping to cash in is Cane and Savea's joint-effectiveness as stealers, considering their renowned ability to reach breakdowns quickly, and – Savea a special handful, by reputation – to act as effective linkers and extra prongs generally to attacking initiatives," he said.


The combination was also a hint that the All Blacks wanted to move the Springboks around the field as much as possible.


"Savea is unlikely to shirk the collisions and the broadly 'dark art' facets of play against the Boks, but the Hurricanes flier would also love nothing more than to be an expressive, weaving and sprinting factor in loose, open play.


"How well he merges the two responsibilities – and it is no simple ask – could be a defining aspect of the tussle' at least his direct rival du Toit knows more precisely what his main chores will be on the red-letter occasion," he said.


By comparison, du Toit's 'no-frills strengths, making thumping tackles and driving the ball up with the sort of venom that usefully commits more than one defender' should see him build on his stand-out performances against the All Blacks in Wellington over the last two years.


"Savea has to be an 'all sorts' factor in his uncustomary position…and despite his indisputable, game-breaking potential, that carries no written guarantees of success," he said.


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