SA look to intimidating Ellis Park for edge in clash against world champs

2013-10-05 00:00

Springbok rugby

SOUTH Africans are looking to their Springboks to achieve the impossible by clean-sweeping the world champions All Blacks and taking the Rugby Championship title at Ellis Park this evening.

The final quarter of the internationals in Cape Town and Buenos Aires last weekend could well have decided the competition with the Boks scoring only three tries against the Wallabies while the All Blacks notched their crucial fourth try bonus point against the Pumas in the final minute. This left the Boks with the challenge of winning tonight, scoring four tries and preventing the All Blacks picking up a bonus point.

The Springboks, growing in confidence and back on the highveld, are certainly capable of upsetting the All Blacks this evening but it will take an extraordinary effort to become only the third team in eight years to run in four tries against the best team on the planet.

There are factors working in South Africa’s favour. This time the All Blacks have travelled (from South America) and they will have to overcome jet lag, altitude and Ellis Park, the most hostile environment in international rugby. This time the Springboks will be at their favourite ground, lifted by a fanatical crowd and chasing a piece of history.

But the concern is that the Springboks, in pursuit of four tries, will attempt to play outside their comfort zone, shifting the ball away from their powerful but ponderous pack and leaving themselves open to the counter-punch.

An ambitious approach could play into the hands of the eager, ruthless All Blacks who are masters at feeding off turnovers. Certainly a free-flowing, expansive game will suit the All Blacks who have the more potent back three, greater mobility in their backrow and a sharper edge to their attacking game.

But, as Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has told anyone who has stopped to listen, it is the All Blacks’ tactical kicking, their ability to find space behind the flat-lining Springboks with chips and chase down the ball in the air, which is one of their great strengths.

In spite of the high hopes of the South African public, captain Jean de Villiers was yesterday keeping his feet on the ground.

“The fact is that we are not up against a Mickey Mouse team here. They are the number-one ranked team in the world, the World Cup winners,” he said at the captain’s media briefing.

“They also want to win the competition and this makes for a great game. We won’t change anything but hope to just execute our plans.”

He said that the Springboks wanted to realise their potential and were not focusing on scoring four tries (though the attacking game of Pat Lambie could see him replace Morné Steyn at flyhalf sooner rather than later).

“This year has been really good but it all comes down to this game. It’s not just the scoreboard, but showing what we are really capable of. We have to put up a performance like we did for the first 20 minutes last week against Australia but keep it up for 80 minutes.”

Remarkably, All Black captain Richie McCaw, a veteran of 119 internationals, will be breaking his duck at Ellis Park.

“This will be my first Test here and the boys and I are pretty excited about it. The atmosphere will be tough and pretty noisy,” said the highly-regarded flank who has rushed back from a knee ligament injury.

“I wouldn’t push myself to play if I wasn’t ready, I have done all I can to get fit and I feel like I am there,” he said. “The Rugby Championship is on the line and we just need to stick to our game-plan and perform.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Tests against the Springboks were special because of the mutual respect.

“It is just one of those great games being played in a great place. Rugby is full of history and tradition and this is one of those games at one of those places.

“We have a choice — we can be frightened by it, or we can embrace it and look forward to the challenge.”

The brooding Springboks should have the edge in the set pieces but it is the battle of the breakdown — where McCaw is an obvious threat — that will be decisive and the collisions on the gainline will be massive.

There was a boost for the Boks late yesterday when centre JJ Engelbrecht was passed fit and Jan Serfontein will be back on the bench.

This is the most intense rivalry in world rugby and the crowd will be desperate for a romantic upset. In 1995 the Springboks beat the seemingly invincible All Blacks to take the Webb Ellis Cup and South Africans are looking to intimidating Ellis Park to produce another piece of rugby magic.


Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein/Juan de Jongh.

All Blacks: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales). Kick-off: 5 pm.

Boks chase a miracle

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