Preview: South Africa v New Zealand

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 07:34

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND SIX: It's the last round of the Rugby Championship with the winners and wooden spoonists already decided, but still a great deal to play for.

New Zealand is the winners of the championship, with a perfect record, but the All Blacks never have less than 100 percent determination for every Test match - especially one with South Africa.

After all, from their mother's knees, New Zealand boys are taught that the Springboks are their most serious threat to the whole of their country and its culture.

For the Springboks, there is the challenge again, from the haka onwards to the final whistle, and they would prefer to end second rather than third in the championship.

And so the All Blacks have chosen their very best available team.

Brodie Retallick apart, that is their best team, the one which gave the Springboks their biggest hiding in the 126 years of their Test history - 57-0 in Albany.

It may be the 95th match between the two countries and New Zealand may be leading the victory count 56-35, but it will be approached with fresh enthusiasm.

It will not be quite an away match for the All Blacks.

They will have great, noisy support from the group that for years and years have supported the All Blacks and even have a group name - the Cape Crusaders.

Furthermore, the All Blacks enjoy better results at Newlands than the Springboks, winning six of the nine matches to the Springboks' three.

The last time the two teams met at Newlands - in 2008 -the All Blacks won 19-0.

There is also a threat from COSATU, the trade union, which, apparently, has sought permission to have 1 500 demonstrators at the ground to protest that the match will be shown live only pay-TV and not on the free-to-air local channel.

One hopes fervently that good heads will rule and that the great ground, the second oldest Test venue in the world, will not be defiled.

The Springboks had been enjoying apparent improvement up to the Albany disaster.

They had won five in a row and then drew in Perth (23-all), only to come crashing down in Albany, exposed as simply not good enough.

They had to face harsh truth, and it will be good to see if they have the power to rise again.

In Albany they lost the scrums - penalised five times - and the line-outs, losing five.

In the scrums, the tighthead problem persists unchanged but there is more bulk behind the front row. This time the Springbok selectors have gone for greater size with four locks (The most effective is on the bench) in their 23-man squad.

In the line-outs the Springboks are, at least in theory, better off with five jumpers while the All Blacks have lost Brodie Retallick. (Did the All Blacks learn line-out wiles from the  B&I Lions.)

Mind you, getting possession is not necessarily enough  In Albany the Springboks were enjoying 61% of possession and 71% of territory when they were losing 17-0.)

This week, the Springboks have the same backline that they had in Albany and that backline did not manage to score a single point.

 

Accept that the All Blacks will score four tries. Somehow the Springboks will have to find a way to surpass that and, of course, backs are the ones chosen to rack up the points.

It's going to take more than dented pride and determination to improve matters, though it is a matter of record that the All Blacks are not invincible.

After all, Ireland beat them, the B&I Lions beat them in New Zealand and the Wallabies came close to beating them in New Zealand.

Players to Watch

For New Zealand: You will see and appreciate Beauden Barrett for his skill, speed, calm and apparent enjoyment of the game. Then there are the wings, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane, action man fullback Damian McKenzie and clever Ryan Crotty. And then there is hooker Dan Coles who manages to inject great speed and acceleration into a waddling gait.

For South Africa: Given a chance the Springbok most likely to impress with speed and cleverness is Dillyn Leyds. Bustling Malcolm Marx, energetic Siya Kolisi and forceful Eben Etzebeth are likely to catch the eye.

Head to head: There will be three areas of contest for the forwards - scrums, line-outs and breakdowns. Don't be too surprised if the Springboks win the turnovers. Then there is that special confrontation in the centres - Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel against Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty. There is no place to hide in the centres, and centre breaks are often lucrative for the team that breaks, devastating to the defenders. Kriel would do well to keep Crotty's cunning check. Scrumhalf versus scrumhalf, Ross Cronje versus Aaron Smith. It is always interesting and so important to the fortunes of their teams.

Recent results:
2017: New Zealand won 57-0, Albany
2016: New Zealand won 41-13, Christchurch
2016: New Zealand won 57-15, Durban
2015: New Zealand won 27-20, Johannesburg
2015: New Zealand won 20-18, London
2014: New Zealand won 14-10, Wellington
2014: South Africa won 27-25, Johannesburg
2013: New Zealand won 29-15, Auckland
2013: New Zealand won 38-27, Johannesburg
2012: New Zealand won 21-11, Dunedin
2012: New Zealand won 32-16, Johannesburg

Results at Newlands
1928: New Zealand won 13-5
1949: South Africa won 15-1
1960: New Zealand won 11-3
1970: New Zealand won 9-8
1976: South Africa 15-10
1996: New Zealand 29-18
2001: New Zealand won 12-3
2005: South Africa won 22-16
2008: New Zealand won 19-0

Results in the 2017 Rugby Championship
New Zealand versus Australia, 54-34, Sydney
New Zealand versus Australia, 35-29, Dunedin
New Zealand versus Argentina, 39-22, New Plymouth
New Zealand versus Argentina 36-10, Buenos Aires
South Africa versus Argentina, 37-15, Port Elizabeth
South Africa versus Argentina, 41-23, Salta
South Africa versus Australia, 23-23, Perth
South Africa versus Australia, 27-27, Bloemfontein
New Zealand versus South Africa, 57-0, Albany

Prediction: New Zealand has scored 114 points in their last two games against South Africa (exactly 57 on each occasion), and are coming off the back of the biggest win in the history of this fixture (57-0). The All Blacks have now won five games on the bounce against South Africa, the last time they won more in succession was an eight-game streak from 2001 to 2004. This will be the 10th meeting between these sides at Newlands Stadium; in none of the previous nine meetings at the venue did either side score more than points; in fact, only twice has a side reached 20 points. The Springboks have won eight of their last 10 games at Newlands Stadium, but will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at the venue for the first time since 1974 after a six-point loss to Ireland in 2016. In fact, South Africa have lost only one of their last 10 Tests on home turf, a 57-15 loss to New Zealand in October 2016 the only blemish in that period. New Zealand have scored 221 points and 32 tries in this tournament this year, they need 42 points and seven tries in this game to break the competition records they set last year. New Zealand is the only side yet to lose a scrum on their own feed in this tournament, winning 39 from 39. New Zealand has scored 19 first-half tries this Rugby Championship campaign, more than three times as many as any other team (Australia six, South Africa five, Argentina four). The Springboks are the only team this tournament to have used just one goal-kicker, with Elton Jantjies booting 23 of his 28 attempts. All Blacks duo Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett have each made 57 carries this campaign, more than any other player at the tournament New Zealand to win by 12 points or more - possibly a lot more.

Teams

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 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 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 David Havili.

Date: Saturday, October 7
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT; 03.05, Sunday, October 8, NZ time)
Expected weather conditions: Sunny at first then overcast with a high of 18°C and a low of 12°C
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com

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