Preview: South Africa v New Zealand
It will be far from a dead rubber when the greatest rivalry in international rugby is reignited in Soweto on Saturday.
It still is the greatest rivalry in international rugby South Africa v New Zealand. It has been so for 91 years and it remains so. When they first met in 1921 it was to determine who was the best in the world.
This time it is 1 v 2 – still trying to see who is the best in the world.
Ask anybody at this time and they will tell you that New Zealand are the best in the world – playing the best rugby with the best players, and yet every South African will say: "We can beat them."
In fact they had every chance to 'beat them' in New Zealand three weeks ago – every chance, but they blew it. Now New Zealand come to South Africa and the Springboks will be believing that 'we can beat them.'
It has not been a great year at all for the Springboks but last weekend there was promise, even if it was against a dilapidated Australian side. After all it was Springbok power that made the Wallabies dilapidated, they will say.
But on that same weekend when the Springboks scored five tries against the Wallabies in winning 31-8, the All Blacks were running over the Pumas, scoring seven tries in winning 54-15.
The All Black feat seems the bigger one but them the Springboks missed 18 points' worth of kicks and had golden chances to score at least another three tries.
Perhaps there is not such a big gulf between the two sides. Perhaps, as is often the case, the side that turns chances into points wins – and that includes chances with the boot.
In Dunedin the Springbok pack got the better of the New Zealand pack and then they played even better in Pretoria last week. If that improvement can continue the Springboks must have every chance of dominating New Zealand and so putting pressure on them. That could be the key to a Springbok victory.
But if All Black pressure leads to inaccurate kicking, then expect the All Blacks to run away with the Springboks – quite literally. Tight forwards hold the recipe for victory. In fact the clash/collision between the two sets of forwards could be as harsh, painful and uncompromising as it's ever been between Springboks and All Blacks.
Both sides are changed from those who met in Dunedin, each four times changed. One of those changes is huge.
Dan Carter did not play in Dunedin but he will be there in Soweto and he, perhaps the greatest rugby player of all time, can make a huge difference. The All Blacks are always a lot better when he plays with his skill, and vision. For South Africa young Johan Goosen has the promise of much and both the locks are changed. South Africa could not make any changes that would equal Dan Carter.
Then there is goal-kicking. Last weekend, the All Blacks missed a penalty and one conversion. The Springboks missed four penalties and three conversions. If it stays like that in Soweto the All Blacks will, of course, win.
Soweto a factor? The All Blacks and the Springboks have played there once before and the All Blacks won when over 94 000 spectators saw Israel Dagg score the try that won the match 29-22.
Soweto was fun then and it may be fun again this time though there may not be as many people to see it – not if Newlands earlier this year and Loftus last week are anything to go by.
Motivation? The idea that the All Blacks will lack motivation after securing the championship last week is silly. It's impossible to think of any New Zealand side giving less than its extreme best. Both sides will be fully motivated.
Players to Watch:
For New Zealand: Look at the stars lighting up the New Zealand backline – Israel Dagg, Cory Jane who catches every high ball and turns it to good use, clever Conrad Smith, fearsome Ma'a Nonu and Aaron Smith with his speed of hand and foot. You would want to watch all of them – and watch out for Hosea Gear.
For South Africa: Bryan Habana has been having a great year. He plays with such intensity and skill – the most committed Springbok of them all? And keep an eye on resilient Jaco Taute, perhaps out of position at centre but always a contestant. In the pack all six loose forwards have virtues but their performances may well depend on how their tight forwards can get them onto the front foot to give them a head start. Young Eben Etzebeth and tall Andries Bekker could play vital roles.
Head to head: You will watch Carter and you will watch Goosen. Do you remember being aghast when Andrew Mehrtens was dropped for Carter? Being aghast was short-term, as Carter's genius revealed itself. It may turn out the same way for Goosen, picked ahead of Morné Steyn. There is electric Aaron Smith against stately Ruan Pienaar. There is calm François Louw against wily Richie McCaw. There is talented, rangy Kieran Read against strong, exuberant Duane Vermeulen. Break it down into whatever individuals and components you like but the battle of the packs could count most.
2012: New Zealand won 21-11 at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
2011: South Africa won 18-5 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
2011: New Zealand won 40-7 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 29-22 at National Stadium, Soweto
2010: New Zealand won 31-17 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 32-12 at Eden Park, Auckland
2009: South Africa won 32-29 at Rugby Park, Hamilton
2009: South Africa won 31-19 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2009: South Africa won 28-19 at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
2008: New Zealand won 19-0 at Newlands
2008: South Africa won 30-20 at Carisbrook, Dunedin
2008: New Zealand won 19-8 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2007: New Zealand won 33-6 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2007: New Zealand won 26-21 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Prediction: It's not an easy one. Let's predict an exciting, seesaw match, won by the Springboks this time in the dying moments. Imagine the party that would break out if that became a reality.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 François Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock , 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Tamati Ellison.
Date: Saturday, 6 October 2012
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Venue: Soccer City, Soweto
Expected weather conditions: Mostly cloudy with a high of 30°C, dropping to 15°C
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Paul Dobson