Preview: New Zealand v South Africa
Are you confident? If you are a New Zealander you are confident. If you are a South African you are looking for a shelter, somewhere to hide till the storm of 2012 disappointment has passed and somewhere there is a rainbow or even just a ray of hope that this icy mediocrity will pass.
If you are a New Zealander, your head is up, and your eyes bright, you only query is By how much. If you are a South African, you pull the covers over you and pray Please, by not too much.
On the evidence of the June Tests and Rugby Championship thus far, there does not seem the remotest possibility of a Springbok victory in this Round Four encounter.
They have played six halves of rugby in this competition, and only two have been acceptable. New Zealand on the other hand, despite the second-test fright against Ireland, have gone serenely from victory to victory. Even when they were under pressure against the weather and the determined Pumas last weekend, they won 21-5.
This week the All Blacks look, if anything, as strong as they were last weekend while the Springboks look, if anything, weaker without Eben Etzebeth and with injury worries to Bryan Habana and Jannie du Plessis.
But there are bigger worries.
One of those is tackling. Some of the tackling against the Wallabies last weekend was woeful. Tackling has traditionally been one of the things Springboks do well, but the missed tackles last week were elementary.
They know the All Blacks will run at them and so they must know that they will be required to tackle.
Then there is the worry of what they are going to do with the ball.
Do they know what they are going to do with the ball, apart from kick it away, that is?
Last week they did not even go in for wildebeest charging, just kicking. They could have simple surprise moves – like clearing quickly from the tackle, passing to the man next to you, bringing a fullback into the line and counterattacking – running back at the All Blacks with the ball in hand.
Those are all things the All Blacks will do but not things the Springboks have done. Imagine if both sides do it on Dunedin's dry and windless field.
Forsyth Barr Stadium should suit the All Blacks down to the ground. The nimbleness, speed and creativity of backs and forwards should have a free rein. They should have no difficulty getting possession. They will dominate the scrums, get their own ball in the line-outs with Andrew Hore to throw in and will dominate the tackle.
Then if they need any more the Springboks will kick it to them. Cory Jane and Israel Dagg will see to that. Isn't Jane wonderful under the high ball?
Players to Watch:
For New Zealand: Backs Conrad Smith, Aaron Cruden, elusive Cory Jane and strong Julian Savea but above all Israel Dagg. In the New Zealand pack there are their loose forwards, complementing each other so well.
For South African: There remains the excitement of energetic Bryan Habana and still the possibility of Frans Steyn.
Head to Head: The halfbacks: creative, elusive, impulsive, mercurial Aaron Cruden against staid, predictable Morné Steyn and unpredictable, do-it-my-way Piri Weepu against slow, staid Ruan Pienaar. The halfback contests could determine the character and pace of the game. Conrad Smith running straight and creating overlaps against Jean de Villiers of the suspect defence but the opportunistic ability. Amongst the loose forwards will François Louw be able to keep Richie McCaw in check. And at lock will Luke Romano dominate Flip van der Merwe? Then there is the goal-kicking contest between Aaron Cruden and Morné Steyn who has been battling of late. Oddly enough, unaffected by the climate though it is, the Forsyth Barr Stadium, a new Test venue for both sides, has not been a happy place for goal-kickers, not even Jonny Wilkinson.
2011: South Africa won 18-5, Port Elizabeth
2011: New Zealand won 40-7, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 29-22, Soweto
2010: New Zealand won 31-17, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 32-12, Auckland
2009: South Africa won 32-29, Hamilton
2009: South Africa won 31-19, Durban
2009: South Africa won 28-19, Bloemfontein
2008: New Zealand won 19-0, Cape Town
2008: South Africa won 30-20, Dunedin
Prediction: It looks an easy prediction. It's hard to see the Springboks winning and so it does not seen farfetched to say the All Blacks by 20 points or more.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 François Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
Date: Saturday, September 15
Kick-off: 19.35 local time (09.35 SA time; 07.35 GMT)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Expected weather: The closed roof suggests a match undamaged by climate.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Vinny Munro at New Zealand)
By Paul Dobson