Preview: New Zealand v South Africa
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FOUR: If the Springboks are not highly motivated and excitedly looking forward to Saturday’s match, nothing will ever motivate them or excite them.
All top sportsmen want to compete against the best, in whatever sport it is. It is a highlight of any sportsman’s career to play against the best in the world.
The All Blacks are the best in the world and these 2018 Springboks will be playing them this weekend.
That’s a great opportunity.
No top sportsman wants to be written off by friend and foe.
These Springboks are coming off two defeats where they know they underperformed and lost to people that they should have beaten.
That should be enough to arouse determination.
Think of the humiliations of 2015.
The Springboks lost 25-37 to Argentina in Durban. That was he very first time the Pumas had beaten the Springboks and then did it in South Africa.
Then, later that year, down on the English Channel at the World Cup, the Springboks lost 32-34 to Japan. Nobody, not even the Japanese, would have predicted that.
The Springboks lost 18-20 to the All Blacks in the semifinal and beat the Pumas 24-13 in London to win third place in the World Cup.
Last year the Springboks played the All Blacks twice. They lost 0-57 in Albany, their biggest Test defeat ever. The next time they played the All Blacks, they were unlucky to lose by a point.
The previous record defeat the Springboks suffered was 0-49 in Brisbane in 2006. The next year they won the World Cup in France.
Surely they will not capitulate before they have even got to Westpac Stadium.
In six matches the Springboks have never won there. So what. History is there to be made.
For years Wales had not beaten the Springboks and then in 1999 they did, 29-19.
For years the Pumas had not beaten the Springboks, their teachers, and then they did, 37-25.
Enough of that. Surely the Springboks will be looking forward to the match and surely the All Blacks will be looking forward to the match.
This, after all, was rugby’s greatest international rivalry. In the ‘amateur’ era, the Springboks led the All Blacks in victories, but since then – and not because of professionalism – the All Blacks have stretched well ahead.
But in the hearts of both teams there will be the traditional conviction that this is the great one. And all 46 players will be out to do their best. They will all have dreamt of this moment and will have dreamt of doing heroic deeds.
Players to Watch
For New Zealand: One of the characteristics of All Blacks rugby in 2018 is how they play and even more how they let teammates play. And they let play by running straight (parallel to the touchlines) and passing to the player next to them, in front of him and waist high. The players we have chosen to watch are exceptionally good at doing those simple things. Beauden Barrett with his speed, skill, vision and intuitive grasp of a game and situation. Kieran Read who, too, has skills and speed and awareness of what his teammates can do. Ryan Crotty who does what all centres should regard as their priority – letting play. Ben Smith of speed, skill and courage. Team-mates profit by his determination to set his team on the attack.
For South Africa: Willie le Roux, so clever, so skilled with such vision. Insouciant Francois de Klerk, brave and individualistic who can change a rugby situation in the blink of an eye. Malcolm Marx – big fearless, the best of tackle robbers. Pieter-Steph du Toit, an action man, who will never surrender.
Head to Head: Ryan Crotty against Damien de Allende – rapier against broadsword. Sam Whitelock vs Eben Etzebeth – especially in the line-out contest and at times of physical demand. The tackle contest – the All Black robbers against the Springbok blasters.
Rugby Championship results 2018
Prediction: New Zealand have won 11 of their last 12 games against South Africa, including the last six on the bounce by an average margin of 23 points. South Africa have lost eight consecutive games in New Zealand against the All Blacks and have not reached 20 points in such fixtures since racking up 32 points in 2009. New Zealand have a win rate of 87 percent at Westpac Stadium, having lost just three times in 18 years of hosting Test matches at the ground – New Zealand are undefeated in their six games at the ground against South Africa. New Zealand have scored 40+ points in their last two games; they have not scored more that 40 points in three or more matches since scores of 58 (v Namibia), 43 (v Georgia), 47 (v Tonga) and 62 (v France) at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. South Africa will be out to avoid losing a third Rugby Championship game in a row for the first time since 2016, back then they lost to Argentina then Australia away from home before travelling to New Zealand and losing, their same schedule as this run. The All Blacks have the best success rates at both the scrum (100 percent) and line-out (83 percent) in this edition of The Rugby Championship, they’ve won all 13 of their own scrums so far. New Zealand have scored 87 second-half points this tournament, more than the combined second-half totals (83) of all other teams in The Rugby Championship; however South Africa (18) have conceded the fewest second-half points of any team. South Africa (22) have averaged the fewest missed tackles per game so far in this tournament, missing just 16 tackles last week; however it is New Zealand who have the best tackle success rate of any side (86 percent). Ben Smith had gained 270 metres in this tournament, the most of any player, whilst he also tops the charts for offloads (7) and clean breaks (11). South Africa’s Siya Kolisi has beaten 18 defenders in The Rugby Championship, more than twice as many as any other forward, and trails New Zealand winger Waisake Naholo (19) by just one. The New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, ‘predicts’ that South Africa are the favourites. Do we believe that? If we do, we’d say the Springboks by two points. If we don’t believe that, we’d say the All Blacks by as many points as they want. But really we believe that the Springboks will give their best performance of the year.
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Jack Goodhue, 23 Damian McKenzie.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Date: Saturday, 15 September 2018
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (09.35 SA time; 07.35 GMT)
Expected weather: No rain but there will be wind. An overcast day with a high of 15°C and a low of 11°C, and a wind from the north strengthening during the day.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
By Paul Dobson