6 reasons Boks will fail!
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - It is a slightly sobering thought that South Africa once put a record 46 points past New Zealand at Ellis Park, scene of Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider, in the Tri-Nations of 2000 ... but also gave away 40 of their own and thus allowed the All Blacks the luxury of two bonus points in defeat.
Of course a repeat of a scenario similar to that one, when the try count in the crazily fluctuating encounter was a tennis set-like 6-4 to the Boks, simply won’t be good enough: the visitors cannot be afforded even a single log point because it will be enough to secure them the 2013 trophy.
At least the level-headed Springbok brains trust are under no illusions about the magnitude of their task this weekend.
Here is my argument for why the mission may prove beyond them (though please note that later in the lead-up period I will also provide half a dozen reasons why the Boks could, indeed, get the job done) ... 1 The pressure of having to score a near-runaway win, rather than basic triumph, will just be too much
Beating New Zealand by four tries, while not letting them earn a single bonus point themselves, can be done: why, it happened the last time these foes met at Ellis Park (40-26) in 2004! But it is one thing thrashing them on the day, quite another when you already know beforehand that it is what you have to do.
It is just not South Africa’s nature to toss the ball around as much as possible; they generally prefer to slowly and aggressively squeeze the life out of their opponents, forcing mistakes and often banging over penalties ad nauseam as they do so.
On Saturday, the Boks may simply run out of time to cross the chalk four times or more ...
2 The All Blacks are skittish about Ellis Park, but not over playing at altitude
Much has been said about the New Zealanders’ ropey record (three wins in 11 Bok Tests) at the intimidating stadium.
But don’t try throwing in the "Highveld Factor" as well: the All Blacks long ago lost their fear of playing at lung-busting high altitude.
They have won the last two Big Smoke encounters, just down the drag at FNB Stadium, as well as all of the last four clashes at Loftus – those results in Pretoria include high-scoring rampages of 45-26 in 2006 and a particularly humbling 52-16 three years earlier.
They are not only able to win on the Highveld, they can do so at an explosive pace of their own ...
3 The All Blacks are world champions and will simply prove as much
For all the quite rightful talk of genuine Springbok renaissance this year under the astute, untiring coaching command of Heyneke Meyer
and often inspired captaincy of Jean de Villiers, New Zealand remain defending World Cup champions and still more than three rating points clear (92.07 v 88.84) of the second-placed Boks on the latest IRB global ladder.
Even the Bok leadership folk describe them reverently as "the world’s best", and a feeling remains in some knowledgeable circles that it is still a tad too early to knock them compellingly off their perch – maybe the 2015 World Cup, rather, is that opportunity?
Keep in mind it will be a big feather in the collective NZ cap if they actually win in the hostile cauldron ... and they are highly unlikely to believe they can’t do it.
4 The All Blacks can quickly scupper the Boks’ dream by starting like a house on fire themselves
You can bet this much: mindful of the Boks’ need and presumably desire to leave their comfort zone and play a particularly daring brand of rugby from fairly early on, All Black coach Steve Hansen will be drumming into his charges the importance of cashing in ruthlessly on possible Bok errors in the risk-taking exercise.
Who better than the likes of Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, prolific-scoring Ben Smith (seven tries in the competition this year) and others to exploit suddenly vacant space or create it in the blink of an eye?
If the All Blacks were, for instance, to leap into a lead of some eight to 10 points, it would go a long way to subduing home-town passion faster than some may even imagine ...
5 If things stay tight, the Boks’ instinct to just win, and not necessarily by four tries, may kick in
Saturday’s environment may well turn out to be one where, despite the Boks’ need for great urgency, they struggle to punch holes willy-nilly in the New Zealand defence – and yes, perhaps leak a few points themselves – leaving the game in the balance and the "bonus-point win" fairytale fading fast.
Then, South Africa will (either consciously or subconsciously) be keen to simply close out the fixture in their favour.
Let’s face it, it would be another healthy little statement of RWC 2015 intent and they would end extremely worthy, close runners-up in this year’s Championship -- with many neutrals feeling they were seriously diddled by officialdom in the Eden Park encounter.
6 Chuck Norris does not play for South Africa
Sadly he was born in Ryan, Oklahoma, and is thus qualified for the United States team.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing