Boks not ready for World Cup ... yet
Coach Rassie Erasmus is curious to see how his Springboks react now that they’re actually given a decent chance of beating the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.
Without a win in eight previous visits, including the 57-0 demolition in Albany two years ago, a South African team given no show revived rugby’s great rivalry with a 36-34 upset win in Wellington 10 months ago.
They square off at the same venue on Saturday in a Rugby Championship Test, which is tougher to call than most over the last decade.
While Erasmus has named close to his strongest team, there is an experimental feel to an All Blacks side fielding Beauden Barrett at fullback, also giving flanks Matt Todd and Shannon Frizell in rare starts.
Erasmus’s decision to omit a group of 14 players from last week’s win over the Wallabies and send them early to Wellington could prove to be a masterstroke.
“I guess people will look at the team we picked to play Australia and there could be a misinterpretation that we disrespected Australia,” Erasmus said.
“However, it was more to do with the respect we have for New Zealand,” the Bok coach added.
“We think it will be a close game.
“There are massive expectations on both sides and excitement and also the anticipation in seeing how much we have grown.
“People think we have a chance now and players react a little bit differently, so that will be interesting to see on Saturday.”
Erasmus believes his side still lacks the consistency to win three knockout matches at a World Cup.
They didn’t kick on from last year’s Wellington triumph as well as he had hoped, posting losses to England and Wales on their November tour.
Before that, they lost the return match to New Zealand in Pretoria 30-32, a result that showed where both teams stand when the chips are down, he said.
“Good teams do what New Zealand did to us at Loftus.
“We were waiting for them and wanted to get the double and they managed to handle it, got it back in the last two minutes and beat us.
“That’s what world-class teams do.
“We’re No.5 in the world, they’re No.1 and showed us when they came over there [Pretoria].”
Erasmus said this week is a chance to start building a run of compelling performances heading into the World Cup.
He described last week’ 35-17 win over the Wallabies as “solid”.
“We have got better but we are a long way from that play-off mode in the World Cup and these next four games we have to get there if we want to go further and make the final.”
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