Out for revenge

2010-07-17 00:00

THE roles have been neatly reversed in Wellington and the Springboks will have to play out of their boots today if they are to avenge last Saturday’s 20-point defeat when they meet the All Blacks in the second Tri-Nations Test.

A week ago the pressure was on the All Blacks, who were desperate to end the embarrassing run of three successive defeats to the Boks; today the South Africans are in the firing line, their commitment and tactical approach under attack after their limp showing and 32-12 loss at Eden Park.

Today’s Test will be closer, tighter, harder both because it is expected to be played in the wet and because the Boks, now settled in New Zealand, will be better prepared, physically and mentally, and more intense after the battering they have taken on and off the field.

Still, it will take a monumental effort to overturn the four-try thumping they took in Auckland.

Bok captain John Smit, at the pre-Test media conference yesterday, said that winning on the road in the Tri-Nations needs “willpower, determination and strength of character.”

“When you’re away from home, everyone expects the home side to win. To change that, you have to do what you do well for the full 80 minutes. You have to force things to go your way,” Smit said.

The Bok captain again had to defend the Springboks’ playing style, but pointed out that the advance of the Bulls and Stormers to the 2010 Super 14 final vindicated the brand of rugby being played in, and by, South Africa, one which plays to the strength of the players selected.

The New Zealanders argue that their high tempo, ball-in-the-hand approach, in contrast to the more structured, tactical kicking approach of the Boks, is better suited to the new law interpretations.

Smit said the assumption was premature after one Test and blamed last week’s defeat on the Boks’ poor execution.

“We certainly upped the ante this week in training. But the turnaround won’t come from the training field, but from what happens upstairs,” Smit added, tapping his head.

The Boks’ mental state, he added, their hunger and intensity, is critical.

The Boks, if they are to challenge today, have to break the All Black rhythm and force Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and company to play behind the advantage line. The Boks need to be secure at the set pieces — and Victor Matfield will surely have solved the lineout problems — dominate the collisions, kick accurately out of hand and then close down the All Black counter-attackers with an organised chase.

The All Blacks, even in the wet, are expected to run with the ball and the Springboks’ first-time tackling, particularly in midfield and by loose forwards Pierre Spies, Francois Louw and Schalk Burger, is critical if the New Zealanders’ momentum is to be broken.

The New Zealand back three of Mills Muliaina, Cory Jane and Rene Ranger have been primed to counterattack in what McCaw expects to be “a huge battle”.

The Springboks have brought in CJ van der Linde for injured prop Jannie de Plessis and Danie Rossouw, though he is nursing a calf strain, replaces the suspended Bakkies Botha.

But what is worrying is that the Boks have persisted with Jean de Villiers out of position on the wing and, suffering without the injured Fourie du Preez, are playing a kick-and-chase game with Ricky Januarie rather than Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf.

Not only those with eight legs and answering to the name of Paul will be predicting an All Blacks will win today. The Boks will come out snorting, and they could well run the All Blacks close, but reversing a 20-point defeat in a week, and on New Zealand soil, is the stuff of dreams.


Springboks: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Jean de Villiers, 13-Jaque Fourie, 12-Wynand Olivier, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ricky Januarie, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Francois Louw, 6-Schalk Burger, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Danie Rossouw, 3-CJ van der Linde, 2-John Smit (c), 1-Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16-Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17-BJ Botha, 18-Andries Bekker, 19-Ryan Kankowski, 20-Ruan Pienaar, 21-Butch James, 22-Gio Aplon.

All Blacks: 15 Mills Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Israel Dagg.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).


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