The teams have been named and we are all set for a battle of epic proportions this coming Saturday.
If we take all the emotion out of the equation like Percy’s 100th test cap he will earn this weekend and Juan Smith’s 50th, everything boils down to one thing – this will be one of the most important tests since the 2007 World Cup Final and definitely a test in which Peter de Villiers’ short reign will define his future as coach.
A win for either team will put them in a strong position to go on and win the Tri-Nations. For New Zealand this is vitally important. Their coach, Graham Henry, is under just as much, if not more pressure than Peter de Villiers, and with their World Cup failure, the New Zealand public will accept nothing less than a Tri-Nations title.
For Peter de Villiers, constantly in the firing line, it will be his first big test at home with a loss basically spelling the end of South Africa’s hope to win the Tri-Nations, also surrendering the number 1 ranking we currently have. And that, for the World Champions will be unacceptable to the South African public.
De Villiers who has met stern resistance in the media and public already will find it hard to find guys to support him and his vision if the Springbok are going to lose.
The selection of the teams, specifically on De Villiers’ side indicates that this game is a win-at-all-costs game for him, where he fell back on the tried and tested and apart from injuries, selected almost everyone from the World Cup winning side of 2007.
Conservatism it seems, has won the battle over adventurism, and it is clear that for now, experimentation is put on the backburner in favour of going the tried and tested route.
Winning means a lot to South Africans when it comes to rugby. And not only winning the big tournaments like the World Cup, but winning every test. Just ask Jake White when he tried to justify his selections at times in his building towards the World Cup!
Playing at home will be a major advantage to the Boks, but playing the Kiwi’s at Newlands in Cape Town might not count for all that much. The weather, height above sea-level and conditions underfoot is something New Zealand is quite used to and likes, and with Richie McCaw back and Dan Carter in great form it is going to be an almighty battle.
The Boks have been slightly weakened by the loss of Bakkies Botha, one of the very few Boks who played with high intensity throughout the test season so far delivering man-of-the-match performances in just about every game.
The earlier loss of John Smit is also huge, especially since the captaincy armband seems to affect Victor Matfield’s overall performance since he took over.
The All Blacks made a mockery of the South African scrum in Wellington, and in Cape Town I certainly do not expect the Boks to suddenly dominate this aspect of the game. If the Boks, like against Argentina, can hold their own in this department it will be good enough – but I have my doubts about that even.
The line-out’s are also not the secure platform and force it used to be for the Boks. Victor’s slight dip in form, the loss of Botha and a new hooker in Bismarck all plays a part in this, so for my money the All Blacks should be on par with the Boks in this department.
Richie McCaw is back, and against the Aussies a couple of weeks back it is quite simple to see what influence this guy makes to a team. Luckily for South Africa they have Schalk Burger back, but it will take a collective effort from Schalk, Spies and Juan to gain parity at the breakdown – a very important part of the modern game.
The problem we have here is that Juan Smith too has not been at his best form since the World Cup last year and Pierre Spies is yet to convince most that he is the machine we saw last year ripping defences apart.
Fourie du Preez is a major boost for the Boks, and a clever selection by De Villiers in my view. Many will cite the influence January had in 2005 when the Boks beat the Kiwi’s at Newlands where he put Carter under immense pressure, but people also tend to forget that the Kiwi’s lost their star scrummy at the time, Kelleher, in the opening exchanges of the game who is just as good at hassling his opposite number.
Du Preez brings clinical, crisp service and is one of the reasons Butch had a great World Cup last year. His educated boot, in a territorial dominant war will also be crucial where Butch can concentrate more on his natural game.
Carter is in my view in the form of his life at the moment, and it will take some stopping to get this guy to stuff up like he did in 2005 – but I know one thing, if the Kiwi’s are on the back foot, not even Carter has an influence.
For the Boks the selection of Habana, Pietersen and Monty is vital and a good move again by De Villiers – these three guys and their experience will be vital to negate the tactical game Carter is sure to employ.
Monty of course is deadly accurate with his penalties, and offers a left boot as an option in addition to Fourie’s base kicking which again will help Butch tremendously.
I believe the All Black centers and back three are their weak points when comparing it to the Boks. Kahui is a talented player, but far from an international class wing. He is up agains Habana who is due a big one and if Jean de Villiers can give Adi Jacobs a bit of space, I believe Jacobs could own Conrad Smith.
Nonu does nothing but crash the ball up. There is little variety in his play and apart from turn-over ball from which any team is dangerous, the All Blacks creativity on attack falls flat at Nonu.
I would love to see the Boks implement a rush-defence closing in around Nonu quite often and giving Smith no space – something I have not seen enough this season yet – but I will have to wait and see.
I believe it is going to be an extremely tight game, turn-overs are going to be vital and if tries are going to be scored, I believe it will be against the run of play, or from turn-overs, not from constructive attacking rugby.
This is the biggest area of concern for me as the Boks concede far too many turn-overs.
A lot is going to depend on how the game will be controlled specifically at the breakdown, and if the referee applies strict laws here the Boks will definitely benefit more than the Kiwi’s.
Heart will always say Boks, but head says the Kiwi’s might take this one by 5 points or so thanks to our ability and skills, or lack thereof at the breakdown.
If our loosies and tight forwards come to the party though, we are good enough for a win at home by at least 8 points.
Too difficult to call but we will always hope for a Bok win.
15 Percy Montgomery, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Andries Bekker, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Conrad Jantjes
15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Afoa, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Isaia Toeava.Tweet