Aaron Smith: Veteran rues breakdown woes after staying in the game until half-time

Dylan Coetzee

Veteran All Black Aaron Smith said the Springboks came out as expected at the start of the game and was “proud” of the half-time score, but his side could not kick on due to poor breakdown execution.

New Zealand’s woes continued as they lost 26-10 to the Springboks in Nelspruit, making it the All Blacks’ third loss on the bounce.

Poor with ball in hand

Smith believes his side failed to build pressure with ball in hand, preventing the All Blacks from staying in the game.

“I thought the start of the game was what we expected, they came out fast and passionate,” Smith said.

“For the first 30 we were able to, they got a try off a spilled ball, and after that we were in our half for a little bit and then were able to build a bit of pressure back.

“To go in at halftime 10-3 was pretty big after that first 30 minutes of them hard in our half. So really proud of that effort, but what went wrong was our ability to build pressure with the ball.

“Missing cleans, they were just too good on the ball. We had a couple of opportunities to break them, and just couldn’t get it done.”

The breakdown was a key point of the game where the Springboks dominated the All Blacks, and Smith believes that is what killed his side’s momentum.

“It’s something we have been working on. Obviously the Irish series was a bit of a different vibe,” Smith explained.

“Their ability to sort of soak the tackle but then get on the ball quickly was what they were really good at tonight at certain times.

“Just our discipline to build pressure, so we would win a moment and then make a mistake. Get down in their half and then turn the ball over or ill discipline, or just simple knock-ons.”

The All Blacks have struggled to score first recently, and Smith believes his side needs to be “better” with their detail from the outset.

“We’ve got to control things we can, we’ve got to get a little bit better at our detail. We knew it was going to be tough, they are at home, full crowd, come out with a lot of passion,” Smith said.

“It’s just about nailing those little things early for us, it’s not ultra frustrating, it is an 80 minute game, but it’s not ideal to start that way.

“It would be nice to score first for once.”

“Respect the ball”

The scrum-half said the All Blacks are not low on confidence but need to pay more attention to things they can control, like the breakdown.

“I wouldn’t call it down on confidence but I think we are trying really hard as a group, there is no doubt that the group wants to better and I think we made a lot of strides this weekend,” Smith said.

“Playing a quality team, we knew it wasn’t just going to happen. But there are things there that we can fix, that we can control, like I said around the breakdown.

“We got to take the lessons and start believing in ourselves. We’ve got to respect the ball and we can’t let teams dictate terms by the breakdown.

“That is something that as a halfback, is pretty noticeable. We get really quick ball and suddenly we miss one clean out and it’s done.”

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