Battle lines drawn for Wellington 'rematch'

Francois Louw (Gallo Images)
Francois Louw (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Make no mistake, the Springboks vs All Blacks rivalry is back. 

It took one heroic display from the Boks in Wellington three weekends ago to see to that, and even if the recent record between the sides remains completely one-sided, the All Blacks know that the fight is back on. 

The Boks, for the first time in a long time, look a side up for it and, more importantly, capable. 

In Wellington, a number of things went South Africa's way. 

The Boks took their chances and tackled as if their lives depended on it, but there was also the erratic boot of Beauden Barrett while a few bounces of the ball went South Africa's way too.

A combination of the Boks being excellent, the All Blacks being poor and a bit of luck brought about one of South Africa's great rugby days. 

On Saturday at Loftus, enough of the personnel from that Wellington clash remains to constitute a 'rematch'. 

The All Blacks do not lose often, and they hardly ever lose on their own turf. That is all the motivation they need to come out guns blazing against a Springbok side that, week by week, is convincing the nation that anything could be possible at next year's World Cup in Japan. 

Both coaches named their sides on Thursday, and both look similar to the ones that started in Wellington. 

The All Blacks have 12 starters who featured in Wellington and 5 substitutes who played that day. The Boks, meanwhile, have 13 starting survivors from Westpac Stadium, while all of the starting 15 for Saturday were involved in that match.

Those numbers point towards a battle on Saturday that is likely to be drenched in revenge. 

When they lose they do it with class, but make no mistake, Wellington will have hurt the All Blacks to no end and they will want this one desperately.

The All Blacks will start as favourites once more, but one thing the Boks will have that has been absent in recent years against the 'old foe' is belief. 

Rassie Erasmus's only real selection surprise was to pick Francois Louw at No 8 ahead of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who started last weekend's clash against the Wallabies. 

Louw was an emergency call-up this week, returning from Bath in England, and his inclusion shows that Erasmus wants the Boks challenging for possession on the ground. 

With Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Louw in the mix, the Boks have firepower on the ground and they will be backing themselves to challenge for as much All Black ball as possible. 

The rest of the side has a familiar feel to it, and all the way through the lineup there are players who had big performances in Wellington and that can only be good news for the hosts. 

The one area of concern for the Boks, perhaps, is in the backline cover off the bench. 

There are two serious Test rookies in the form of the underplayed, untested Embrose Papier and Damian Willemse. 

Both players, along with the more experienced Elton Jantjies, were unused substitutes in Saturday's win over the Wallabies. 

In Wellington, both Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende were injured during the match. Fortunately for the Boks, it all worked out with Cheslin Kolbe and Elton Jantjies firing off the bench as Erasmus was forced to re-shuffle the backline. 

Willemse and Papier are both players with a lot of promise, but a Loftus Test against the All Blacks is a different level entirely and they will be watched closely if given the chance. 

There are no such concerns in the forwards, where both on the bench and in the starting line-up, the Boks are powerful. 

There is a big opportunity for Saracens-based Vincent Koch, who replaces Wilco Louw on the bench to form a powerful unit alongside Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, RG Snyman and Notshe. 

On paper, the Boks remain underdogs. But, also on paper, these are the same Boks that got the job done against the same All Blacks just three weeks ago.

And if it can happen in the 'Cake Tin' of Wellington, then there is no reason why it can’t also happen at Loftus. 

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.


South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

New Zealand

15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe

Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 Ryan Crotty

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