Cape Town - If ever the Springboks need to ensure that their ‘suffocate and strangle’ approach operates optimally, it has to be in Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium (5.05pm kick-off).
The All Blacks are not just battling on the scoreboard at the moment, having lost a home series 2-1 to Ireland last month.
The All Blacks struggled to contain a rampant Irish pack in the scrums and driving mauls, where the outstanding front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong set the tone.
And they were backed up by grizzled veterans Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Finlay Bealham off the bench.
The All Blacks just don’t have the big names that used to stand up to the Boks in the recent past, such as Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Charlie Faumuina.
Just for this trip to South Africa alone, there is no Karl Tu’inukuafe, Moody, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala. The last three are injured, while Tu’inukuafe has been left out as he is returning to French club rugby later this year after featuring against Ireland.
That means that the six props who are in Mpumalanga at the moment are Aidan Ross, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Ethan de Groot, Angus Ta’avao and Tyrel Lomax.
Most of those names won’t be recognisable in SA, particularly due to the local franchises now campaigning in Europe with the United Rugby Championship instead of Super Rugby.
Ta’avao is the most experienced of that group at 32 and with 22 Test caps to his name, but is also coming off a three-week suspension for a head clash with Ireland’s Garry Ringrose in the second match of the series, which saw the Chiefs tighthead receive a red card.
Compare that to the Bok set of props: Trevor Nyakane, Steven Kitshoff, Ox Nche, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch and Thomas du Toit.
That’s a fearsome group who are in top form, with Nyakane and Malherbe named in the starting line-up on Tuesday, and Kitshoff and Koch on the bench.
Foster announced his match-23 on Thursday, opting for Bower, Samson Taukei’aho and Ta’avao as the front row, and they will have to play the game of their lives on Saturday.