The tools to create history

2013-09-14 00:00

THE Springboks are on a roller-coaster ride and the duffers of Mendoza three weeks ago are now suddenly being tipped to make history by rolling over the world champion All Blacks at the most daunting venue in world rugby.

The Springboks went from the lows of Mendoza, and a scratchy 22-17 Rugby Championship win over the Pumas, to scale the heights last Saturday by thumping the Wallabies 38-12 for their first victory in Brisbane in 42 years.

One win does not make a world championship team, as Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said yesterday, pointing out to his players (and the expectant South African public) that the South Africans would have to improve on their performance last week to have any chance of toppling the ruthless All Blacks.

“The scoreboard looked pretty good for us at Suncorp, but our execution let us down at times and we will definitely have to be better against the All Blacks,” said De Villiers at the captain’s briefing yesterday. “We will not get as many opportunities as we did against the Wallabies.”

History is weighted strongly in favour of the All Blacks, and their record in Auckland is remarkable, with 30 Test victories on the bounce since 1994. The Springboks’ last success in Auckland was way back in 1937 and, as De Villiers emphasised, taking on the best team in the world at a ground where they have never won is a “massive challenge”.

The focus of the rugby world is on Auckland today and De Villiers said the Test would be special.

“The All Blacks are pretty keen about it and everyone seems excited. No one really expects us to win, but that adds to the challenge. We have shown that nothing is impossible.”

De Villiers was at pains to place the challenge in perspective, labelling the current All Blacks “as one of the best sides of all time”.

“To be honest, if you look at what they have achieved [as world champions], they are a special group of players. But that makes our challenge that much greater.”

All Black captain Kieran Read, who has taken over from the injured Richie McCaw, said that the current Boks had developed on attack.

“But they still pride themselves on their set piece, chasing kicks and being physical, and that’s something they will continue to do.

“They have shown they can score tries, but I would expect them to still come at us in the forwards. So that’s the challenge for the boys up front.”

Rain has been forecast and it could slow the All Blacks, who want to play with width and pace, winning quick ball from the breakdown, either to allow nippy scrumhalf Aaron Smith to test the big Bok loose forwards around the fringes or release the back three of Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea to run at stretched defences.

A slower, tighter game will bring the action closer to the Springboks’ formidable backrow of Willem Alberts, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen, while Morné Steyn’s goalkicking — he has missed only three of his 28 attempts at goal in the Rugby Championship compared to Dan Carter’s 57% — could prove decisive.

The Springboks, when they have been at their best against the All Blacks, have relied heavily on their defence, knocking the New Zealanders back on the advantage line and forcing them to play from deep. And that will only be possible if the forwards can place the All Blacks under some pressure. The battle at the breakdown, the scrum and the lineout will be brutal.

While the Springboks are hoping to control the forward battle, they know the All Blacks will be far more intense, committed and organised than the Wallabies were a week ago.

And that is the major difference between Brisbane and Auckland. The Springboks mugged the unsuspecting, attack-minded Wallabies at a venue where they believed they were unbeatable last week; today the better-balanced All Blacks are ready and nervous about the challenge, and they would have plotted ways of defusing the Springbok power game.

The Springboks most certainly have the tools — a strong pack, an organised defence and the boot of Steyn — to create another piece of history.

But the All Blacks, experts at exploiting attacking opportunities and creating space, are the most ruthless finishers in world rugby, and their ability to seize the moment could just give them the edge on their favourite ground today.


15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau


15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 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 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein. Referee: Romain Poite (France). Kick-off: 9.35 am (SA time).

Other fixture: Australia v Argentina.

Kick-off: 12.05 pm (SA time).

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