Johannesburg - It’s the greatest test in rugby - and every man who’s represented the Springboks and All Blacks will tell you that.
The rivalry goes back to 1921, with New Zealand holding the sway, winning 49 times and the Boks 34, with three draws. But the greatest match of all between the greatest of foes was won by the Springboks, in the World Cup final in 1995 - at the venue for today’s Rugby Championship decider.
Bok captain Jean de Villiers, who’s never played in a World Cup final, but has faced the All Blacks on numerous occasions,including the last time the Boks beat them at Ellis Park, in 2004, 40-26, said today’s match will be like a World Cup final.
“This one’s up there when you talk about finals rugby. I’d say it stands alongside the World Cup final and a British and Irish Lions series… then it’s this (a Bok versus All Blacks match). This is why we play the game,” he said.
The Boks will have to produce something similar to their 2004 effort if they’re to have a chance of denying the All Blacks an umpteenth southern hemisphere championship title. They need to score four tries and deny the New Zealanders a bonus point if they’re to leapfrog the visitors on the points table.
It’s set up perfectly. It’s a decider, at the home of South African rugby and we have two teams that are on top of their games. “We take part in competitions like this to win competitions,” said De Villiers. “We know what’s expected of us. We’re going to go out there and give it our best and see what happens.”
Following the disappointment of losing at Eden Park three weeks ago when many feel the Boks were robbed of a chance to show their true potential after referee Romain Poite red-carded Bismarck du Plessis, the Boks have their inspirational hooker back, while New Zealand welcome back Richie McCaw. The All Black captained, injured a month ago, should never have been ready for this match, but he did everything possible to recover in time, just to face the Boks for the first time at Ellis Park, and that after playing 119 Tests.
“Every time we’ve got a mountain to climb the whole of South Africa gets behind us,” said De Villiers.
“To run out on to a packed Ellis Park is one of the greatest feelings a rugby player can experience. Every time we run out there we feel unbeatable.
“All we can do now is hope to produce a good performance, one that will unite and give hope to our country. Hopefully we can make South Africa proud and produce a performance worthy of wearing the jersey.”
Here is a list of interesting head-to-head stats between the Boks and the All Blacks:
The All Blacks’ last win against the Boks at Ellis Park was in 1997 when they won 35-32. Prior to that, their only other two wins came in 1992 (27-24) and 1928 (7-6).
If the All Blacks beat the Springboks this weekend it will be their 50th Test victory over the South Africans, and they will become the first team to have achieved this feat.
Of the 13 previous occasions that the All Blacks have met the Springboks at Ellis Park, New Zealand have lost eight, including the 1995 World Cup final when a Joel Stransky’s drop-goal in extra-time lifted South Africa to an historic 15-12 win.
It will be the first Ellis Park Test between the two sides in nine years – the marquee annual home New Zealand fixture is the biggest on the South African rugby calendar and has been shared around the grounds over the last decade.
Tomorrow’s match between South Africa and New Zealand is the 86th meeting between the two sides. New Zealand have won 49 compared to South Africa’s 34 wins. There have been three draws.
The first meeting between New Zealand and South Africa was in 1921, and it finished with the All Blacks beating the touring Springboks 13-5 in Dunedin.
The last meeting between the two sides was three weeks ago where the All Blacks came out victors, winning 29-15 in Auckland.
The largest margin of defeat in this fixture came in July 2003. New Zealand came out victors, winning 52-16 in Pretoria.
Zealand have managed to score a try in 29 consecutive matches against South Africa. The last time they failed to score a try against the Springboks was in 2001, when they won 12-3 in Cape Town.
There have been three draws between the teams over the years, but overall the Springboks have won 40 percent of their matches against the All Blacks.
The average score when the Springboks play the All Blacks across all venues is South Africa 15 New Zealand 19. The average score when the Springboks play the All Blacks at Ellis Park is South Africa 23 New Zealand 19.