Black Lash

2009-08-01 00:00

THE Springboks will have to play their best rugby of the year if they are to beat the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations Test at King’s Park this evening.

The South African and New Zealand camps agree the All Blacks will improve on their Bloemfontein form of a week ago and will be far more of a threat to the Springboks tonight.

Springbok captain John Smit has spent the week telling anyone who will listen that the All Blacks, with time to settle, playing at sea level, encouraged by their second-half revival in Bloemfontein and a proud team, will be far tougher to beat.

Certainly the Boks will have to reproduce the physicality of the first half in Bloemfontein, but this time maintain that intensity and focus if they are to deny the fired-up All Blacks.

Smit said yesterday that beating the All Blacks twice on successive Saturdays would be a major boost for South African rugby and their Tri-Nations ambitions ahead of next Saturday’s Test against the Australians in Cape Town.

He said an All Black back-to-the wall response was inevitable.

“They are never going to be satisfied after last week’s game and there will be a backlash from them,” he said. “They’ll be a far better team and we just have to make sure we take our game up a gear.”

Smit will become the world’s most capped captain, overtaking George Gregan and Will Carling, when he leads the Springboks out for the 60th time today, but he would not dwell on the record and refused to be drawn on the suggestion that he was part of a “golden era” in South African rugby.

“Golden eras should only be spoken about in hindsight.

“The more we hear about how good we are, the worse it will be for us.

“My job as captain is to keep perspective. The more we think about milestones and eras, the less we’ll think about what needs to be done today.”

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said yesterday it is imperative that the New Zealanders hit the ground running after slow starts against both the Wallabies and the Boks in the past fortnight.

“Last week we made too many mistakes and ended up giving away penalties at the wrong end of the field,” McCaw said.

The All Black flank, who is improving every week after a long lay-off with injury, said an improvement in the lineout and at the breakdown is essential to pressure the Boks.

He said they have worked on nullifying the influence which Bok lock Victor Matfield had on their lineout in Bloemfontein.

“Heinrich Brussow also put pressure on our ball at the breakdown. The key is obviously to dominate at the collision points, and we’re confident we can.”

The All Blacks were bullied off the ball in the first half in Bloemfontein, but they matched the Boks physically after the break and at times looked the slicker, more organised outfit.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said the players had prepared exceptionally well.

“The guys are in good shape but we’d be conning ourselves if we thought that meant we can just turn up and win on Saturday.”

The forward battle in Bloemfontein, won first by the Boks and then, briefly, by the All Blacks, determined the flow of that Test and the two teams will want to express themselves physically today. It promises to be the toughest and closest of Tests with, perhaps, a fluffed try-scoring opportunity, a missed tackle or a referee’s call separating the two teams.

The forecast is that the Test could be played in the rain and the Boks, with Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn and Frans Steyn at nine, 10 and 15 and a strong lineout, appear better equipped to play a tight, tactical game in the wet.

The Boks, at home, richly experienced and with world-class talent in key areas, should hold the edge, but this time they will have to keep playing, and making their tackles, for 80 minutes to achieve their objective.

 

TEAMS:

SPRINGBOKS

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Wynand Olivier.

ALL BLACKS

15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Cory Jane.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

Kick-off: 5.00pm

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