The South Africa back row match their tackle type to the situation says Will Owen

Lions Analysis: Springboks’ tackle choice

It’s no secret that South Africa’s main selling point is their physicality. They have the biggest, scariest forward pack in world rugby. Not only do they possess this weapon, but they know how to play to their strengths.

The Springboks back row’s tackling is renowned as the best in the world, not only for their strength and technique, but also their choice of tackle.

Springboks’ tackle choice

The following hit, by captain Siya Kolisi in the second Test of the British & Irish Lions 2021 series, is a fantastic example of this.

Kolisi is given a free shot on Stuart Hogg, who is 12kg lighter than the flanker. The Lions full-back jumps for the ball with no chance to sidestep Kolisi, meaning the South African can hammer into Hogg and smash him backwards.

Despite his size advantage and superb timing, Kolisi opts to chop Hogg’s ankles. While it doesn’t send Hogg as far back as a higher shot would, it is a much safer choice and brings Hogg straight to the deck.

Hogg’s immediate descent to the floor opens up a gate for Damien de Allende to counter-ruck against Robbie Henshaw and Chris Harris. With Kolisi on the floor and out of the way, de Allende doesn’t have to slow down to avoid him. The centre makes an immediate impact, allowing Eben Etzebeth to join, disrupt the ball and ultimately win South Africa a penalty.

Kolisi also pops straight to his feet to nullify the impact of Henshaw.

The next example is a tackle made by Kolisi’s back-row compatriot Jasper Wiese.

Wiese flies out of the line to chop Alun Wyn Jones. Given his strong line speed, he probably also could have put in a stronger hit, but Wiese notices Jones is running an outward line and opts to chop his ankles.

Jones’s support players, Courtney Lawes and Ken Owens, have to immediately alter their lines in order to retain the ball. South Africa are quick to contest and manage to slow the Lions’ phase. This allows Wiese to jump straight back to his feet.

Hogg receives the ball from Ali Price and attempts to step around a few South African defenders. Wiese, once again, applies strong pressure on Hogg’s inside and catches him behind the gain-line.

It was Wiese’s own tackle that eventually gave him the opportunity to get back on his feet, preparing him to apply good line speed and make a strong tackle for the second consecutive phase.

The Springboks’ tackle choice will need to be en pointe again if they are to win the decisive third Test this Saturday.

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