PRETORIA – Three weeks ago they were a desperate team, having lost to the Wallabies in Brisbane, and preparing themselves for a clash against the All Blacks in Wellington.
But, fast forward to this week and the Boks are all of a sudden an in-form team, having secured back-to-back wins against their arch-rivals, the All Blacks, in Wellington and the Wallabies, in Port Elizabeth last week.
“The Boks have every right to be confident after their performance in the last couple of weeks,” said hooker Codie Taylor this week. “Our loss in Wellington was tough to take, but they deserved it. They defended well that day, and also last weekend against Australia they played well. They’ll be a confident team this week.”
Steve Hansen’s men may have already won the Rugby Championship, but this week already there is uncertainty about the Test’s outcome, something that wasn’t the case all that long ago.
“The gloss (of the rivalry between the teams) has never not been there,” said All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty this week when asked whether the competitiveness and rich history between the countries had been restored because of the Wellington result.
“They’re one of best Test sides in world ... I think it’s potentially something the media here put on them (the Boks). They’re an outstanding side, with class players across the field, and we respect them. It’s always a massive challenge playing against them.”
The All Blacks side is (15-1):
Ben Smith; Waisake Naholo, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell; Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock; Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty.
The Springboks team will be named on Thursday.