This article previews Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between the All Blacks and Springboks at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The game kicks off at 5:35 PM AEST on the 15th of September. The referee is George Clancy from Ireland.
The All Blacks enter this fixture with a commanding 27-9 record against the Springboks on home soil. Below are the most recent results:
Dan Carter will miss out as he continues to recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s Test. Aaron Cruden will again start in his place with Beauden Barrett on the bench. The All Blacks have made a number of changes from last week. Halfback Aaron Smith has been benched for breaking a team curfew so Piri Weepu gets the start. Lock Sam Whitelock has been recalled, replacing Brodie Retallick, who had a poor game last week. Andrew Hore starts at hooker ahead of Keven Mealamu and Liam Messam starts at blindside-flanker with Victor Vito dropping to the bench. In the reserves Tamati Ellison gets a spot at the expense of Ben Smith.
15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Aaron Cruden, 9-Piri Weepu, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Reserves: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Charlie Faumuina, 18-Brodie Retallick, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Aaron Smith, 21-Beauden Barrett, 22-Tamati Ellison.
Added to the lengthy absentee list for the Springboks is second rower Eben Etzebeth, who copped a two-week ban for a headbutt last week. South Africa had hoped to fly in Bakkies Botha, however the move was blocked by his French club, Toulon. Flip van der Merwe will start in Etzebeth’s place. In another change, specialist blindside-flanker Francois Louw gets the nod ahead of Marcell Coetzee. This move is likely aimed at nullifying Richie McCaw’s ball-poaching at the breakdown. Coach Heyneke Meyer has injected fresh legs onto the bench, with lock Andries Bekker, prop Dean Greyling and versatile back Juan de Jongh added to the reserves. Jannie du Plessis has been given until Friday to shake off a hamstring injury and will be replaced by Pat Cilliers if he is unable to.
15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jean de Villiers (captain), 12-Frans Steyn, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Juandre Kruger, 4-Flip van der Merwe, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: 16-Tiaan Liebenberg, 17-Dean Greyling, 18-Andries Bekker, 19-Marcell Coetzee, 20-Johan Goosen, 21-Juan de Jongh, 22-Pat Lambie
It took them 65 minutes, but the All Blacks finally managed to put Argentina to the sword last week. In torrid first half conditions they were let down by numerous handling errors. This will frustrate the coaching staff given they pointed out handling errors as room for improvement after the first two Tests. In hindsight the All Blacks should have played to the conditions more in that opening spell. Once they ceased trying to go through Argentina and instead attacked round the fringes and ran better lines the All Blacks were able to assert their dominance and stretch the 9-5 score-line out to 21-5.
A lot of the talk in the Australian media is of the pressure coach Robbie Deans is under, but Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is feeling plenty of heat as well. The Springboks faded badly in the second half last week, which has prompted the South African media to question their fitness levels. Like Australia, South Africa is struggling with injuries in what is already an inexperienced side. The forwards arguably came off second best at scrum time last week, which will be a cause for concern. The Springboks also need to improve their protection of the ball and minimise handling errors. They have a good kicking game, but with Forsyth Barr Stadium being an indoor venue, they won’t be able to rely on the weather creating conditions that suit conservative kicking based rugby.
I’m gobsmacked by the 1.09 head-to-head odds on the All Blacks. I don’t recall ever seeing them so short against the Springboks. The last time the two sides played in New Zealand the All Blacks won 40-7, however the Springboks had sent a second string side for that fixture with the 2011 World Cup looming later in the year. The All Blacks hosted the Springboks twice in 2010, winning by 20 points then 14 points a week later.