Rugby Championship

Five mouthwatering contests that could shape the 100th Springbok/All Black Test

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The All Blacks celebrate beating the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld in 2018.
The All Blacks celebrate beating the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld in 2018.
Gordon Arons/Gallo Images
  • The 100th Test between South Africa and New Zealand is loaded with mouthwatering contests that can shape the outcome of the game.
  • The teams will be meeting in Townsville on Saturday in what will be the fifth time they've met on neutral territory.
  • Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand forced the game to be moved to Queensland.

The Springboks and the All Blacks may be meeting for the 100th time since their first clash in August 1921, but no game has been more highly anticipated.

The All Blacks beat the Springboks when they last met in the 2019 Rugby World Cup pool stages, but it was Rassie Erasmus's side that had the last laugh when they won the trophy.

The All Blacks changed coach and named a new captain, but they will be hard-pressed to prove that they're better than SA.

Current results show that the All Blacks are on an upward trajectory while the Boks are stagnating after the British & Irish Lions series success.

However, the form book tends to go out of the window when these sides meet and here are five contests that will liven up the landmark game:

13 - Lukhanyo Am v Rieko Ioane

That the British & Irish Lions had to change their midfield in that series was indicative of Am's excellence. The All Blacks though are a different kettle of backline fish and have silkier operators.

The lack of cross-continental Super Rugby has also meant Ioane hasn't been fully tested by South African teams on defence, but for his franchise and country, he's thrived in the position.

Am's standards have slipped in the two Australia losses, but he can hardly be blamed for the all-round malfunction when the problems have been at 9 and 10 from a game management perspective.

That said, the Boks haven't played to Am's strengths, but he's thrived regardless while Ioane has been the beneficiary of a system that allows backs to express themselves.

10 - Handre Pollard v Beauden Barrett

There's a notion that Barrett has been able to survive despite weak packs when he played at the Hurricanes. As England showed in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, parity is needed for any flyhalf to find traction in a game. That said, Barrett remains New Zealand's premier 10 despite the necessary flirtation with Richie Mo'unga, but should the All Black be put under pressure, how he responds will be interesting.

As for Pollard, the less said about his all-round game in Australia, the better. While it's true that he recovered from a knee injury, in the two defeats against the Wallabies, he was failed by two basics: defence and kicking.

The former will be furiously tested by the All Black strike runners and Pollard will have to find form and fast in this game.

8 - Duane Vermeulen v Luke Jacobson

Vermeulen has generally been at his best when facing the All Blacks, but the feeling exists that in recovering from his ankle injury, he's been playing within himself. He can't afford to do that against New Zealand and without a specialist ball-carrying No 7, the onus will lie on Vermeulen to execute that task.

Jacobson is quite the unknown quantity at international level, but with him in the back-row, there's a steelier and beefier look to them. This is a department that would like to prove itself and being up against Vermeulen and besting him will give Jacobson international brownie points.

4 - Eben Etzebeth v Brodie Retallick

This battle will take on added significance in that Retallick hasn't played against the Springboks since the 2019 16-16 draw when he was taken care of by RG Snyman. Snyman's not around but in Etzebeth, Retallick faces a long-standing nemesis.

That Retallick is more skilful than Etzebeth is without question, but what will be required from Retallick is extreme physicality to counter that of Etzebeth's.

He's never lacked it in the past, but whether he's the same player after the Wellington incident remains to be seen. He does remain New Zealand's most influential forward while Etzebeth, with plenty of Test mileage this year, needs to find that extra gear to deal with Retallick.

Front row battle

Joe 'Tripod' Moody will have a lot to prove, especially with how he got out of jail when he wasn't penalised in the 2019 World Cup clash for his wonky scrumming. Nepo Laulala is a solid combatant, but not one SA should be losing sleep over while Codie Taylor remains world-class.

While not the most mobile, Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe are New Zealand's best scrummaging props and are on standby to deal with Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch.

Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe will then have to put in quite the shift early to ensure the Boks get on the front foot, especially when it's known that the All Blacks often get the rub of the green when it comes to officiating. 

Teams

All Blacks

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Quinn Tupaea

Springboks

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn

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