It doesn’t seem quite possible, but I’m almost more excited today than I was before the World Cup final.
The lead-up to the game this week has been fantastic and expectation levels have somehow increased exponentially as the week has worn on. Right now I just can’t wait anymore – Bring it on!
But now, onto the game.
Tomorrow heralds the first true test for one Peter de Villiers. Having accepted the job what seems like ages ago, tomorrow represents his first real challenge as Bok coach.
Yes, yes, Wales are Six Nations champions, and there was a lot of smoke blown up Warren Gatland’s arse, but in the end the result was never really in doubt, especially as the game was being played in the Republiek. The came, they tried, but they went home crushed without the Boks even really having to delve into their bag of tricks.
Tomorrow, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.
No All Black side, as least not one that I have seen, has ever just rolled over and taken a whipping and I’ve personally never seen the Islanders put out anything less than a highly, highly competitive side.
Tomorrow will be no different.
The loss of the likes of Mauger, McCawsome, McAlister, Hayman, Rawlinson, Collins, Jack etc will certainly have a profound effect on the side’s continuity but let’s also not forget that New Zealand haven’t dominated rugby for the better part of the last decade by not having sufficient depth in almost every position.
Funnily enough, the failure of the All Black’s in the 2007 World Cup was largely blamed on Graham Henry’s rotation policy, something that might just start to pay dividends now that they have lost a few players.
The notable exceptions seem to be scrumhalf where they just cannot seem to bring in any quality for love and money.
It also seems that getting out of hand and trying your utmost to throw away your career is also ingrained in the physce of the kiwi scrumhalf.
Of course, as things always turn out, the one position where Graham Henry neglected to implement his rotation policy was at openside and this might prove to have been a mistake in hindsight with the injury to Richard McCaw. Only time will tell. The situation almost seems to mirror the one SA faced when Burger was injured. Although it wasn’t the end of the world, you could definitely see the difference he made when he came back.
So on to the team comparisons and, to be honest, I really don’t think there is much in it.
Purely on the basis of experience I think the Boks should edge the Blacks in the tight and, thanks to the re-introduction of Schalk Burger, we should edge them at the break-down too.
However don’t expect us to crush them in the forwards – any advantage we might have at this level will be small, possibly only worth a few points. That’s simply the reality of playing New Zealand in New Zealand, especially when it’s raining.
In the backs the situation is reversed, and almost completely so. Januarie will take on Andy Ellis and that is probably the only place in the backs where we have the ascendancy. Butch lines up across Carter and, while Butch is in fantastic form and one of the top stand-offs in the world currently, Carter, by virtue of a superior boot in wet conditions, should dictate matters a bit more elegantly and effectively. That’s of course assuming Big Vic doesn’t catch him with the ball again. Time and time again Carter has struggled against the Boks when they’ve managed to get in big hits on him early on. Hopefully tomorrow will be no exception.
In the midfield is where we might struggle. Although de Villiers is in superb form, Jacobs is very green at this level, only having played one game against New Zealand and that was years ago. Adi Jacobs has been bigged up by coach Peter de Villiers in the week with de Villiers dismissing Jacobs’ defensive frailties as a “myth”. Personally I’m not sure but I sure as hell hope de Villiers is spot on the money because in Nonu and Smith New Zealand have two of the most devastating runners in world rugby. Nonu has at times also proved to be slightly frail on defence but he’s a big unit and Conrad Smith, were it not for injuries that have plagued him through-out his career, would be a household name.
Out wide I don’t really think it will matter as I doubt, under the expected conditions, that the outside backs will even see the ball, except to poach it out of the air. On the note I hope, no in fact I pray, that Jantjes has buried the Vaseline bottle and proves to be a safe pair of hands. Thankfully Mr. Reliable, almost centenarian Percival Montgomery, is warming the bench because, let’s face it, as good as Jantjes is he is not really a wet weather player.
It was 1998 since the Boks last put one over New Zealand in the Land of the Long White Cloud. There have been some heady periods in SA Rugby since that historic day but it does feel right at the moment. It feels as we’ve come full circle and for the first time in God knows how long, I actually feel as there is a calm in the team. I’ve never seen the Boks this settled, the lack of political tension obviously helping. While stopping short of saying its Now or Never, this is a pretty good chance to put one over on them and, as World Champions, these are the opportunities you need to make count.
To Peter, John and the boys – go out and play your normal game. If you do it well the All Blacks will have no choice but to chase the game. And that’s where it’s going to get exciting. Keep it tight and keep it hard and squeeze them till they break. Every time I’ve seen New Zealand lose in the last 4 years is when they were squeezed out of the game and strated to panic. It won’t be easy but a level head and some good decision-making will carry us through. On the other hadn, if they manage to get an early lead it might just be a long night in the Kiwiland.
Boks by 4 points for my money. But that’s just guess-work. The head says it’s a perfect 50/50 split with the team that soaks up the most pressure and the least rain the ones that are going to the cloakroom afterwards as the winners.
To the victor the spoils and in South Africa’s case we’ll cement our spot as worthy world champions after not having met either of New Zealand or Australia in the World Cup last year.
For New Zealand the opportunity to regain the number one spot in world rugby and the chance to prove that the 2007 World Cup was just yet another fluke.
It’s going to be a cracker. I can’t wait. Give it horns boys. And bring home the win.Tweet