Rugby Championship

Boks-All Blacks set for another thriller

2015-07-24 19:00
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)

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 drama.

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 weekend.

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 left.

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 from line-outs.

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 the job".

Kick-off for Saturday’s Test is scheduled for 17:05.


South Africa:

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 Mtawarira

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

New Zealand:

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



Boks turn back the clock

2016-10-26 22:07

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