It’s going to be a great occasion, even greater than a rugby Test between South Africa and New Zealand always is, even more exciting, even a bigger occasion.
Just think of it and you realise it.
Soweto. Brand new stadium in a brand new venue – 90,000 spectators.
John Smit’s 100th Test. Tri-Nations victory. World Cup coming.
Doc Craven said that a rugby Test was a folk festival. It brought people together. This Test will be a folk festival for South Africa bringing people together as happened at the Super 14 Final and as happened during the recent soccer World Cup in South Africa.
For the Springboks it will be exciting – an excitement with a strong component of apprehension as they face the possibility of a fourth straight defeat in the 2010 Tri-Nations and a whitewash by the team which they whitewashed just last year.
The Springboks come off a break of three weeks; the All Blacks played the week before last. The Springboks should be better rested, are at home and should be calmer in their preparation, but it seems that this is not so.
There is uncertainty about injury, there is the whole Frans Steyn saga, there is the unhappiness about the refereeing and there is talk of withdrawing from SANZAR in five years’ time.
There is an air of uncertainty with a tinge of chaos.
The All Blacks on the other hand have an air of deadly calm. They have wafted over the Indian Ocean and are about their business without any sideshows or concerns. All they have to do is pick their team, prepare and play – and walk away with the Tri-Nations.
Will they still be calm on Saturday, out of their insular comfort zone? One would expect them to be adult enough and worldly wise enough to cope.
Will the Springboks come out of the sideshows and rise above the three hidings they have just had in Australasia?
Traditionally the Springboks are best when their backs are to the wall, when they are underdogs. Suggest to them that they are sure to win and they will come apart.
How are the two sides going to play? The All Blacks seem to know only one way – attack with as many players as possible involved with powerful weapons at loose forward and backs who do the simple things so effectively – run straight, pass to the man next to them and watch the last man run free on an overlap – and it takes only one man to score a try. They have been scoring tries all right. In their three matches they have scored 16 tries, four times what the Springboks have scored.
To score tries, you need ball, and the All Blacks have twice beaten the Springboks for ball – in set phases and after the tackle, especially after tackles where the Springboks have been poor. They have kept the ball better and used it better.
For the Springboks it seems that they should get the ball, as they can, and then keep it. If they kick, then it must be to recover the ball, not to set Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane and company running free. The All Blacks will not reciprocate. They will do all in their power to get the best ball for themselves and be miserly in allowing the Springboks only bits of bad ball. It’s worked for them before.
The the All Blacks have such a settled look. Go from 9 to 15 it all looks so settled. Look at the Springboks and only 10 and 11 are settled in their positions. In the pack exchanging Franks is hardly a big deal while the Springbok pack continues to change – one a positive change with the return of noble Juan Smith.
Players to Watch:
For South Africa: You would like to watch John Smit and wish him the best of days on a great afternoon. You would also hope that Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh get the chance to produce their electric excitement.
For New Zealand: There are lots of All Blacks to watch, starting with the rejuvenated Mils Muliaina and going on to deceptive Cory Jane, masterly Dan Carter, Kieran Read who is probably the find of the 2010 Tri-Nations, bustling Keven Mealamu and, of course, as always, Richie McCaw. Who is going to contain Richie McCaw?
Head to Head: The clash of units – centres against centres, loose forwards against loose forwards, locks against locks and front rows against front rows.
The All Black centres, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu could test the combined defences of Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers, though De Jongh is certainly capable of stopping his man. At loose forward the Springboks desperately need a big game from strong, speedy Pierre Spies. If they play two loose forwards against that New Zealand trio they will come nowhere, as has happened in this Tri-Nations. The line-outs will again be interesting, given the great performances of Tom Donnelly and Kieran Read and the potential of Victor Matfield to clean up.
One of the most interesting contests could be at scrumhalf – two combative players who will not relent, experienced Jimmy Cowan and international rookie François Hougaard. Don’t discount Hougaard.
Then there is the kicking competition and here Morné Steyn may well have the upperhand. Here discipline counts for so much.
The Springboks have suffered most from disciplinary sanctions of a serious nature – four yellow cards and three citings with suspension in four matches. You can’t play against New Zealand like that.
On the other hand the All Blacks have been more penalised – 34 times in three matches to 24 times in three matches by the Springboks. Penalties are potential points.
Let’s hope that this occasion is a good one for rugby – no cards, no moans about the referee, no pointing fingers at opponents – just a dingdong battle.
2010: New Zealand won 31-17, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 32-12, Auckland
2009: South Africa won 32-29, Hamilton
2009: South Africa won 31-19, Durban
2009: South Africa won 28-19, Bloemfontein
2008: New Zealand won 19-0, Cape Town
2008: South Africa won 30-28, Dunedin
2008: New Zealand won 19-8, Wellington
2007: New Zealand won 33-6, Christchurch
2007: New Zealand won 26-21, Durban
rugby365.com Prediction: Tries count. They boost morale in the side scoring them and dampen the spirits of the side scored against. It seems that the All Blacks are more likely to score tries than the Springboks. The Springboks hurting are more likely to tackle with greater [purpose than they have done before and they may even become cohesive competitors for the ball. If they tackle softly or not at all and get blown away at the tackle, they will lose by more than 10 points. If instead they can dominate possession, they could win by five or so points. But our prediction is victory for New Zealand by fewer than 10 points.
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Butch James, 22 Wynand Olivier.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Israel Dagg.
Date: Saturday, August 21
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Venue: Soccer City, Soweto
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet