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Experts analyse brilliant space scanning to set up crucial Kolbe try

BY Stephen Brunsdon  ·  Tuesday Aug 10, 2021

Aside from Morné Steyn’s final-minute penalty to win the game, Cheslin Kolbe’s second half try against the British and Irish Lions was perhaps the decisive turning point in the final test.

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While on the face of it, the try is a typical counter-attack move finished as a result of sloppy tackling from Liam Williams and Luke Cowan-Dickie, detailed analysis into the Springboks’ attacking structure has shown that the counter down the blind side was not as instinctive as first thought.

Super Sport’s panel trawled through the build-up to the try and broke down the key decisions which led to Kolbe going over for what proved to be a crucial score for the home side.

In much the same way as Kolbe’s World Cup-sealing try against England in 2019, the counter-attack from the Springboks has been used to deadly effect, particularly in the narrow channel in which Kolbe operates best.

This time, the conduit comes from full-back Willie Le Roux, who takes play back down the blind side channel from where the up-and-under from the Lions originated.

The key here is the up-and-under chase from winger Duhan van der Merwe and the failure to cover that vacated space by flanker Tom Curry. Van der Merwe is challenging the ball in order to slap it back to his side and for the Lions to maintain possession whilst in a more favourable position on the field.

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Unfortunately for the Lions, the ball is recovered on the South African side and quickly finds its way to Le Roux, who eyes up the options in front of him, while bringing two more team-mates, centre Damien de Allende and scrum-half Cobus Reinach into the breakaway.

With Kolbe sticking to his wing, the Lions are in real trouble, but Kolbe won’t get to the line unless Williams and Cowan-Dickie fall off the tackle.

The strength of Kolbe bumps off Williams initially and the momentum he carries into his fend on Cowan-Dickie means it’s a fairly easy finish, but the identification of the space from Le Roux and the snap counter is what ultimately cost the Lions dearly.

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