Johannesburg - South Africa host world
champions New Zealand at Ellis Park on Saturday in the latest episode of a
rivalry between the top two ranked rugby nations that invariably delivers
Last year at the same Johannesburg stadium,
a monster last-minute penalty goal by replacement flyhalf Patrick Lambie earned
the Springboks a rare recent victory.
It was only the second loss suffered by the
No 1-ranked All Blacks since they won the 2011 World Cup in Auckland, and ended
a run of five consecutive victories over their greatest rivals.
Despite home advantage and the backing of
most in an expected sell-out 62 000 crowd, the Springboks start as underdogs in
the Rugby Championship second-round showdown.
South Africa surrendered a 13-point lead
when losing at the death in Australia last Saturday a day after New Zealand
cruised to a five-try 39-18 victory over Argentina in Christchurch.
With the southern hemisphere tournament
trimmed from six rounds to three because the World Cup kicks off on September
18 in England, the All Blacks could clinch a fourth consecutive title this
A bonus-point New Zealand victory and a
home win for Argentina over Australia in which no bonus points are secured
would give the title-holders an unassailable six-point advantage with one round
But when the Test begins as dusk envelopes
African financial hub Johannesburg, rival coaches Heyneke Meyer and Steve
Hansen will have one eye on the Rugby Championship and one on the World Cup.
All Blacks handler Hansen has rung the
changes when announcing three starting line-ups, with the visit to Johannesburg
preceded by a 25-16 Test win in Samoa and the pounding of the Pumas.
The coach who succeeded Graham Henry after
the 2011 World Cup triumph has chosen three right wings, three centre
partnerships, three scrumhalves and three lock pairings.
So deep is the reservoir of All Blacks
talent, first-choice flyhalf Dan Carter and centre-cum-offload magician Sonny
Bill Williams have been 'rested' for the Ellis Park game.
"We have got to develop combinations
and versatility," stresses Hansen, "because if a player is injured
during the World Cup he is out for the rest of the tournament.
"Facing South Africa will be a
pressure situation and there is no better place than Johannesburg to get
answers about players."
He will demand a plan to stop South Africa
copying Argentina, who scored two tries in quick succession off driving mauls
Driving-maul tries are a Springbok
speciality with flank Heinrich Brussow, recalled after four years in the Test
wilderness, a regular scorer.
Hansen has no love of the tactic, labelling
the eight-man drives "bloody boring" and "illegal
obstruction" and wants the law changed to permit collapsing them.
Meyer has plenty on his mind, including the
timing of substitutions, tactical kicking and a promising but raw centre
partnership of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.
The coach came under heavy fire for
replacing impressive hooker Bismarck du Plessis and props Tendai 'The Beast'
Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis midway through the second half in Australia.
"Did the coach not have a feel for the
game?" asked former All Black scrumhalf turned TV analyst Justin Marshall.
"Is he premeditating that certain guys can play only 60 minutes?"
South African columnist Mark Keohane was
equally critical: "Meyer got it wrong and cost the Boks victory... he
showed a disregard for the flow of the game."
An area where the Springboks have
traditionally been second best to the All Blacks is field kicking with many
kicks in Australia uncontestable and an invitation for Wallabies fullback
Israel Folau to counterattack.
Converted fullback Kriel has one cap and De
Allende four while rival centres Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu boast 180 Test
appearances between them.
But Meyer has faith in his 'Bok babes',
saying: "I would not have selected them if I did not believe they can do
Kick-off for Saturday’s Test is scheduled
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13
Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan
Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Francois Louw, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood
de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor
Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Cobus
Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lionel Mapoe
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad
Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran
Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Brodie
Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt
Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Victor Vito, 21 TJ Perenara, 22
Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa