South Africa v New Zealand - Teams and Prediction
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND TWO: Despite his team’s dismal form, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said it was foolish to rule his team out of contention for the Rugby Championship title.
New Zealand tackle arch foes South Africa in Round Two in Johannesburg on Saturday and a sixth loss in seven Tests will almost certainly spell the end for likeable but beleaguered ‘Fossie’.
The ferocity of the Springboks last weekend delivered a 26-10 first-round triumph over the All Blacks in Mbombela, pushing Foster ever closer to the exit door.
That beating – the biggest in South Africa since 1928 – left not only Foster but also captain and flank Sam Cane at the receiving end of a barrage of condemnation.
With all that noise surrounding those men, Foster is just focused on the job at hand.
“The challenge is still there. We’re not out of anything,” said Foster.
“I know there’s a lot of messaging that says we are, but we’re not.
“We think this is a massive chance for us to go into a big ground [Ellis Park], a massive occasion and, again, show that we are growing our game. And that’s our goal.”
Despite his team’s poor performance in the defeat in Nelspruit last weekend, Foster resisted making sweeping changes to the line-up that’s been largely utilised throughout the season to date.
Richie Mo’unga comes in for Beauden Barrett in one of four changes to the starting line-up. Mo’unga was introduced in the second half last Saturday and his presence led to a noticeable improvement by a team outplayed in the opening 40 minutes.
There are three changes to the pack that began in Mbombela with props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax promoted after making significant impacts when they came off the bench. They replace loosehead George Bower, now a replacement, and tighthead Angus Ta’avao, who drops out of the matchday 23 for the showdown between old foes.
The other alteration is in the back row where flank Shannon Frizell, scorer of the only All Blacks try in Mbombela, takes the place of Akira Ioane, who will start on the bench.
“Ethan and Tyrell both played well last week,” Foster explained. They’re both strong scrummagers and we’re looking at a bit of a change-up, particularly with Fletcher Newell coming off the bench for his first Test and having Cody [Taylor] and George [Bower] alongside him in the second half, at a time that the South Africans have a big focus on the scrum.
“We dealt with their second half scrum well last week, and, with [Malcolm] Marx going back into his normal role off the bench, I’m confident we ‘ve got good combinations in the second half as well.”
The preview continues below…
Discipline is another area of concern for the All Blacks after Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard punished them with his accurate boot last weekend.
“We know that if you give away penalties around halfway or the 10-metre line, you know what they are going to do. They are going to kick into that space and go through their driving game.
“But, when you look at last week, while we gave them some opportunities I was really impressed with the way we defended that part of their game, so we’ll take a lot of confidence from that, but we would [also] like to give them a few less entries into that zone.”
Foster said they were also satisfied with clarification on protection for players involved in aerial contests.
“We’ve asked for our players in the air to get some protection from people knocking and colliding into them with one arm in the air and we’ve had good clarification about that, so we’re very clear.”
Meanwhile. earlier in the week, South Africa made five changes and showed the depth of their forward talent by placing hooker Malcolm Marx, the man of the match last Saturday, among the substitutes.
He was replaced in a rotational move by Bongi Mbonambi, who suffered an injury while training, leading to a starting slot for third-choice Joseph Dweba.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber cautioned his team before the rematch, telling them that they “are in for a massive challenge because the All Blacks are desperate to turn things around”.
A legitimate concern among South African supporters is whether the green and gold can match the Mbombela performance – the best since overpowering England in the 2019 World Cup Final.
Players to watch
For South Africa: All eyes will be on hooker Joseph Dweba, who comes in for the injured Bongi Mbonambi. Saturday will probably be Dweba’s biggest match of his career and the All Blacks might give him some extra attention. Also in the pack is the return of veteran No.8 Duane Vermeulen. It will be the 36-year-old’s first Test of the season after his rehab after knee surgery and there will be questions about his fitness levels, especially in a high-intensity encounter against the All Blacks. However, Vermeulen has plenty of experience and he knows what it takes to beat NZ. In the backline, Jesse Kriel comes in for the injured Kurt-Lee Arendse. You won’t find a lot of Springbok fans that agree with that decision, but Kriel is a versatile player and he has the skills to mix things up for the Boks out wide. Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse has had a few solid games under his belt so far and Saturday’s game could be a defining one for his career going forward.
For New Zealand: Richie Mo’unga has been a star for the Crusaders at Super Rugby level for several years, but he has his doubters when it comes to international level. He can tear the Springboks apart out wide, but it all depends on the kind of ball he gets from his forward pack. The All Blacks have never really found a replacement for Jerome Kaino over the years and that has certainly played a part in their decline. Shannon Frizell gets the No.6 jersey this week and he will need to be at his best in the physical exchanges against South Africa’s bruisers. The scrums will be a key area once again and Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot will have a big job on their hands against Frans Malherbe and Retshegofaditswe Nche. If the All Blacks get pummelled in the set-pieces then they can kiss their chances goodbye.
Head to head
Last 10 encounters:
2022: South Africa won 26-10, Mbombela
2021: South Africa won 31-29, Gold Coast
2021: New Zealand won 19-17, Townsville
2019: New Zealand won 23-13 (RWC Pool match)
2019: 16-16 draw, Wellington
2018: New Zealand won 32-20 (Pretoria)
2018: South Africa won 36-34, Wellington
2017: New Zealand won 25-24, Cape Town
2017: New Zealand won 57-0, Albany
2016: New Zealand won 57-15, Durban
@rugby365com: South Africa by 14 points.
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Albertus Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samson Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Date: Saturday, August 13
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17.05 (03.05 Sunday, August 14 NZ time; 15.05 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be clear skies with a high of 23°C and a low of 8°C
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia) & Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)
@rugby365com, AFP & @AllBlacks