The following article previews this weekend’s Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and All Blacks at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. The game kicks off at 1:00 AM AEST on Sunday, the 7th of October. The referee is Alain Rolland from Ireland. The All Blacks secured the inaugural Rugby Championship last week so it will be pride that both sides will be playing for.
The All Blacks beat the Springboks 21-11 in Dunedin in Round 4. It was unconvincing win for the All Blacks, with the Springboks failing to take their opportunities. South Africa let an early try opportunity go begging and Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and Johan Goosen missed 20 points worth of kicks between them.
The last time the two sides played in Johannesburg New Zealand won 29-22 in 2010. The All Blacks trailed 22-8 at the break before overcoming the Springboks with two late tries. South Africa have won three of the last four Tests against the All Blacks on South African soil, although the All Blacks sent a weakened side to South Africa in last year’s Tri Nations competition.
Inside-centre Francois Steyn requires surgery on the ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s Test. Jaco Taute will again start in his absence. The starting XV is unchanged from last week. In one change to the bench, prop Coenie Oosthuizen returns from injury to replace Pat Cilliers.
Zane Kirchner (hip), Johan Goosen (heel), Jannie du Plessis (stiffness) and Willem Alberts (hip) have been rested at times during training this week but coach Heyneke Meyer is confident they will be able to start.
15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jaco Taute, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Johan Goosen, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: 16-Tiaan Liebenberg, 17-Coenie Oosthuizen, 18-Flip van der Merwe, 19-Marcell Coetzee, 20-Elton Jantjies, 21-Juan de Jongh, 22-Pat Lambie
Coach Steve Hansen has made two changes from the squad that trounced Argentina. In a surprise selection, Hosea Gear replaces Julian Savea on the left wing. Savea scored two tries last week but you could make a case that he’s less effective against stronger opposition. In the forwards Brodie Retallick replaces Luke Romano at lock. Andrew Hore retains his place at hooker with Keven Mealamu starting on the bench.
15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Daniel Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Reserves: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Luke Romano, 19-Adam Thomson, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Tamati Ellison
After threatening to do so all tournament, the All Blacks back line finally fired last week, bringing in all seven of New Zealand’s tries against Argentina. Rather than play to their strengths, the Pumas played open, attacking rugby with ball in hand. While it made the game pleasurable to watch, the strategy played directly into the All Blacks’ hands. They found their rhythm and all of the final passes that went begging in the first four rounds finally stuck as they racked up 54 points. Dan Carter slotted back into the side well and Ma’a Nonu had the best game I’ve seen him play in while. The only disappointment for the All Blacks will be the fact that they conceded two tries, but there is no question that last week’s Test was their best performance of the competition. With this game being played at altitude, the All Blacks can expect plenty of high kicks this weekend, however fullback Israel Dagg has been fantastic under the high ball all season.
The Springboks will have taken due notice of how the Pumas’ decision to play attractive rugby backfired, so it remains to be seen whether they try to entertain or focus on beating their biggest rivals. They have stated their intention to spread the ball and keep ball in hand, but given the pressure that coach Heyneke Meyer is under, I fancy they will prioritise winning over playing with style. The Test in Dunedin was a forwards-dominated slog, which certainly suited the Springboks better. They could have won the Test had they been more accurate with the boot and they will back themselves to get the job done at home this time round.
The Springboks enter this fixture full of confidence after steamrolling the Wallabies last week. They didn’t kick away as much possession as they have done previously and were rewarded with five tries. The 31-8 score line doesn’t do justice to their dominance, with four of the first five shots at goal missed. Goal kicking is a historical strength of the Springboks, so the two bad kicking displays in a row will disturb Springboks management. Goal kicking cost them the game in Round 4 and it could well be a deciding factor this weekend.
With both sides finding good form last week, this has the makings of a classic, it’s just a shame that the Rugby Championship is not on the line.
The challenge of battling high altitude, travel fatigue and a 90,000 strong Soweto crowd cannot be overstated. The Springboks will back themselves to gain the ascendancy again in the forwards and fly-half Johan Goosen will pose the All blacks more problems than Morne Steyn did in Dunedin. The All Blacks do have a track record of nicking wins in South Africa, however, so my best bet is to back the Springboks +5.0 at the line.
I backed Springboks winger Bryan Habana to score a try last week and he scored three, bringing his tally to six tries in the last five Tests. Given his rich vein of form I see no reason not to back him again this weekend. I also backed Israel Dagg and Cory Jane to score for the All Blacks last week and while Dagg failed to score, Cory Jane also picked up a hat-trick. I think it’s unlikely that neither will score this weekend, so I fancy another go at backing both individually to score at any odds over 2.00.
A comparison of live bookmaker odds for the Springboks v All Blacks Test can be found in the Live Odds section.