Deception of the tape is a phrase I’ve coined to help explain things that our eyes have watched but not actually seen.

Against the All Blacks in Cape Town, the Springboks were unrecognisable. Unrecognisable from the side that played the Wallabies a week earlier and NZ a few weeks previous.

They addressed many of the problem areas that plagued their performance at Albany. The uncertainty and excessive movement in their lineout were absent. Marx threw with confidence to his targets and Etzebeth set himself the task of challenging the ball on NZ’s throw.

But it was the effort of the Springbok forwards in their carries that really caught the eye.

At halftime, the match statistics listed possession fairly evenly split. The All Blacks made a greater territorial gain, missed fewer tackles but crucially committed four times as many handling errors than the Springboks.

The territorial disadvantage was hurting the Springboks.

Conceeding hard yards

We admired the South African forwards hurtling into contact, sending All Black tacklers backwards and sometimes finding holes in the middle of the ruck. But when the ball was moved to wider channels, their depth of alignment made it easier for the All Black rush defence to cut them down, conceding the hard metres won up front.

In contrast, the All Blacks played flatter on attack and wider off the rucks, using their forwards’ quick ball movement to advance the ball over the advantage line.

A sequence of play at the 53rd min mark from a lineout on the All Black 10m line illustrates my point.

Illustration of point

The Springboks outfoxed the All Blacks by throwing to the back. And an unmarked Etzebeth ran into space. But in the first phase, the Boks passed backwards almost 20 metres to the halfway line. In the second phase, they retreated inside their half. And on the next phase conceded a turnover 5 metres inside the All Blacks half.

Immediately the All Blacks countered and in two phases were already 10 metres inside the Boks half before an error stopped play.

For all the good work the Boks were doing, they were undoing it almost immediately. This is my point of deception of the tape. We all saw the good stuff. In fact, it was possibly so good and so unrecognisable that we missed the not so good stuff.

Working harder

The Springboks had to work harder to go forward, but they forced the All Blacks to make more tackles.

They were also guilty of playing too much rugby in their own half. This ended up forcing halfback Ross Cronje to box kick regularly, earning the ire of the crowd. Again, the deception of the tape. The crowd couldn’t understand why. In fairness though, not all of his kicks were accurate or chased effectively giving the All Blacks easy possession to counterattack.

Lessons learned

In the second half, Jantjes kicked earlier and more frequently for territory. The Springboks also flattened their depth and started to play closer off their halfback. This, in my opinion, was due to them learning on the job and learning quickly. They identified where they weren’t playing as well as they could and they changed it up.

There was no better example of this than the amazing 18 phases leading up to Ross Cronje’s try. It was symbolic that the sequence began with a clever lineout throw to the front by Marx, catching the All Blacks by surprise. Marx had three significant involvements during that passage – how he didn’t earn the Man of the Match award escapes me.

How the All Blacks scored three tries and created more try-scoring opportunities than the Springboks with the amount of possession they had also escapes me.


Author: Sam Taulelei

I discovered my passion for watching sport later in life.

As a kid I enjoyed playing sport more than watching it on TV. Then I discovered the power of books and would lose many hours reading about different sports and participants. My passion for reading and writing led me to a career in…….IT, yep I know.

Anyway it wasn’t until the emergence of this little thing called the internet that I rekindled my first love of sport and writing about it. I have a natural curiosity and love to solve the question of why did something happen as opposed to just writing about what happened.

I’m Wellington born and raised now living across the ditch.


  1. Great Article.
    If South Africa want to play more up the middle, they cant just rely on their Forwards to get the go forward ball all the time. The back line tend to move sideways and not as direct, going direct would compliment the forwards hard work. Also they lack game breakers or they are just not developed yet.
    I feel only Jan Serfontein is starting to get that x factor, also if Pollard remains fit then things may change i game management.
    South Africa may need another big center and maybe one big winger, to break over the gain line.

  2. Great Read, the big differences between the 2016 Springboks and the 2017 Springboks is that the latter has learnt how to adapt and they know where they need to improve. 2016 they were clueless on both counts!! We are seeing the emergence of a huge Bok pack moving into the future, I feel the only missing cog is Dwayne van meulen.

    But it’s in our back line where we need to find a whole complete new engine … we need stability and creativity in the mid field. But the main missing link is X factor with our back three …


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