Rugby Championship

Springboks v All Blacks: 5 tasty Test match-ups

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  • Battles within battles will be the name of the game when the Springboks and the All Blacks meet at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.
  • New Zealand has the better set of backs, but it is in the forward pack where the Springboks have a distinct advantage.
  • The benches, a big determinant of previous close results between the Springboks and the All Blacks, will again play a role.

In Mbombela

No Test match, especially that of the magnitude of the Springboks and All Blacks, will be completed without a set of tasty match-ups.

Here are five individual and collective contests that will shape the direction of Saturday's Test in Mbombela: 

The front rows

This is one battle that is difficult to individualise, and set-pieces are battles within battles.

Trevor Nyakane, Malcolm Marx, and Frans Malherbe should have the edge over George Bower, Samisoni Taukei'aho, and Angus Ta'avao, but the All Blacks have always found ways to stay  alive when their scrums are creaky.

This is an area the Boks will want to exploit, especially if the Lowveld Heat that finally descended on Mbombela on Friday turns things up a notch and brings the humidity that'll make handling tricky.

Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, and Ethan de Groot could make life uncomfortable for Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, and Bongi Mbonambi off the bench.

The Boks need to make sure they dominate this area and once the All Blacks are on the back foot here, life will be tough for Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett.

Eben Etzebeth/Lood de Jager v Scott Barrett/Sam Whitelock

The tall timber battle could have massive implications from a maul perspective.

The maul is where New Zealand were tossed and turned like a steak by Ireland, and the All Blacks are without their prime maul-stopper Brodie Retallick.

New Zealand's lineout was also picked apart by the Irish, a meltdown that ultimately led to the dismissal of John Plumtree.

The Boks also have Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese, Salmaan Moerat and Franco Mostert as the other lineout options.

That sends out a statement as to what the Boks intend to do with the All Blacks at lineout for the entire game.

Jasper Wiese v Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea literally carried the All Blacks in the third Test against Ireland when they had to fight back from 22-3 down.

They still lost that game, but Savea's reputation blossomed to a point where questions were asked of Sam Cane's place in the side.

While Savea wears the number eight jersey, he's easily New Zealand's best openside flanker, but such is his blockbusting impact, he's pretty much their everyman.


South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jaden Hendrikse, 23 Willie le Roux

New Zealand

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1 George Bower

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Quinn Tupaea

Wiese is still learning his trade as a Test-class number eight, and he didn't have the best of outings against Wales in the third Test.

One of his issues is receiving the high ball and while he worked at this facet of his game this week, it will be something the All Blacks will target consistently.

Also, New Zealand's defence will be faster and more physical than that of Wales, something that will test Wiese's ball-carrying.

Damian de Allende v David Havili

That David Havili has been entrusted with the number 12 jersey again this year after being scorched by Damian de Allende last time out is a massive show of faith by the All Black coaching staff.

That Havili is a competent Test midfielder is not the matter here. It's whether he has the physical mineral to live with De Allende running at him the entire 80 minutes that will be tested.

De Allende went through the Wales Test matches without being seriously tested, but what he's done well is to adapt to the demands of the All Black forwards running at him.

De Allende's sleight of hand passes last year proved to be an unexpectedly successful point of attack for the Springboks.

It is one they'll have to use reasonably often to test an All Black defence that was scarred by a rough experience against Ireland.

The benches

New Zealand's bench has generally come through for them in their close encounters against the Springboks.

They'll need the same impact as they're one side that's been able to manage altitude better than most travelling teams.

The Springboks' six forwards and two backs split on the bench makes it clear that they want to take the All Blacks to dark places.

It's the Springbok innovation against New Zealand's tried and tested X-factor.

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