Cape Town - The tale of the tape, especially if you were
conducting the exercise for pugilistic purposes at Emperors Palace rather than rugby
combat at Loftus, is a fairly sobering one.
Springbok right wing Cheslin Kolbe (76kg, 1.72m) against All
Black left wing Rieko Ioane (102kg, 1.89m); Springbok No 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi
(86kg, 1.87m) against All Black No 14 Waisake Naholo (fluctuating weight
suggestions between 96 and 105kg, and 1.86m).
For confirmation of an underdog theme to those berths in the
Rugby Championship clash in Pretoria on Saturday, you might wish to throw in
the respective experience levels in Test matches: Ioane and Naholo sport 42
appearances between them; Dyantyi and Kolbe 11.
Tries? Well, Ioane is one of those potent individuals - rather
like a hot-shot Premier League soccer marksman - whose tally of 20 actually eclipses
his Test cap stack of 19, while Naholo, another beneficiary of the world
champions’ eternally attack-minded playing style and mastery, boasts 15
dot-downs from 23 games.
Ioane keeps up his “better than a try a game” track record
specifically against South Africa, too: four tries from three bilateral
Fast-emerging poacher Dyantyi, one of the international
finds of 2018 thus far, has six tries from eight Tests, including a heartening
brace in the famous 36-34 Wellington upset of the All Blacks very recently -
his first exposure to those foes.
Kolbe has one try to his name in his particularly fledgling Test
career, although it came at a key moment of admirable opportunism, in the Cake
Tin humdinger, as a “supersub”: just his second minute on the park, straight
after half-time, as he intercepted and streaked away.
So the Springbok fliers can certainly be said to be
encouragingly “on the board” against the dual World Cup holders and
already-confirmed Rugby Championship 2018 retainers.
But the duo will also be as aware as anyone of the special magnitude
of their task this weekend, not just against their muscular, dynamic direct
foes but the chastened All Black team as a whole ... a group no doubt still
smarting from the one stain on their copybook in this year’s tournament and
hell-bent on avenging it, ideally with a bit to spare.
The harsh truth is that New Zealand, helped by the regular
visits of their various franchises during Super Rugby seasons, no longer fear
playing at high altitude; the modern All Blacks more accurately embrace it,
given their up-tempo and so often market-leading brand of rugby.
It is reflected in their track record from the last four
Tests at Loftus: NZ wins each time, and usually by comprehensive margins – they
have averaged 41 points “for” in the quartet of matches.
Any change to their expansive template is unlikely this
Saturday: I still fancy that for all the likelihood of the Boks giving them a
tough enough time of it broadly speaking at forward, the All Blacks will wish
to ultimately run the hosts off their feet.
Pitch conditions, in contrast to heavier Westpac Stadium
three weeks back, should be typically hard and fast in the Pretoria cauldron -
the weather looks benign, perfectly set - and that is going to potentially
bring the strong-running likes of Ioane and Naholo firmly into their own if the
visitors get on the front foot a lot.
So Messrs Dyantyi and Kolbe, anything but a marriage made in
heaven as a wide combo in physical terms, truly will have the ultimate
examination of their ability to repel the brawny, yet simultaneously swift
Naholo and Ioane respectively.
Doing it “front on” is going to be the most challenging part,
you would imagine, simply because of the considerable discrepancy in size
across both wing duels.
The South African pair have already confirmed their raw
courage against larger foes - that is almost beyond dispute - but may have to
rely on reasonably fast-arriving support from bigger team-mates to fully bring
the All Black pair to the turf in face-to-face situations.
One comfort is that, even if beaten or unceremoniously
“bounced” the first time, both Dyantyi and Kolbe are extremely nippy and
committed back-tracking defenders; they will find it easier - as many others
do, of course - tackling the New Zealand duo from behind.
They would do well to draw heart, too, from a certain,
memorable physical mismatch on the Highveld: the 1995 World Cup final when
James Small was crucially terrier-like (with some help from friends, like Joost
van der Westhuizen and Japie Mulder) in his marking of the then especially
freakish, 120kg young juggernaut Jonah Lomu.
Hardly lacking in alertness, counter-attacking zeal or
sweet-stepping skills, Dyantyi and Kolbe may also find profit from the
long-held theory that when you manage to make big All Black “buses” turn out wide
on defence themselves, they don’t always do so that smartly or comfortably ...
Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende,
11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7
Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben
Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman,
20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian
15 Ben Smith, 14
Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane,
10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane,
6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2
Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17
Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21
TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 Ryan Crotty
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