When you arrive at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, it’s quite an intimidating sight.
Normally the idea of rugby venues in New Zealand is one of those smallish, community venues – and even at the bigger stadia, you seldom get big crowds.
But the ‘Cake Tin’ holds 34 500, and is a far cry from the old Athletic Park – where the 1998 Springboks beat the All Blacks 13-3.
All you see when you walk inside the stadium is yellow; the bright yellow of the Hurricanes. It’s an impressive, modern facility similar to our 2010 World Cup stadiums. The Westpac was built in 1999, and has a wonderful, fast surface as well.
Clear weather is forecasted for Saturday, but it wasn’t the case four years ago. It rained for most of the day in Wellington on 13 September, 2014, and it was windy too.
Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time I got to Westpac Stadium for the game, and the stage was set for the Boks to cause an upset.
Having lost by a point (24-23) to the Wallabies the week before, Heyneke Meyer and his management had been convinced that they could beat the All Blacks.
They felt that they had been done by in Perth with regards to refereeing decisions at the maul, and Meyer also acted decisively in starting Handré Pollard at flyhalf for Morné Steyn.
Pollard proved to be the star of the show against the All Blacks, setting up Cornal Hendricks’ try with a wonderful angled run and inside pass to the Bok right wing, who finished in style.
Pollard also kicked a 40-metre drop goal, and the defence withstood wave after wave of All Black attacks to stay in the game at 14-10.
The New Zealand journalists were stunned into silence by the time the last quarter came around, as a stunning Springbok victory was a real possibility.
The Boks then launched a number of late forays into the New Zealand 22, but they were kept out each time by heroic Kiwi defence.
In the last minute, replacement prop Marcel van der Merwe produced the scrum of his life to force a turnover, but from there, Duane Vermeulen was stopped just short of the tryline.
Scrumhalf Francois Hougaard then took the wrong option by going to the right again, finding Lood de Jager, who was tackled into touch.
The All Blacks won the lineout and Aaron Smith kicked the ball out to clinch victory for the home side, but they knew that they had stolen that win from the South Africans in what was captain Jean de Villiers’ 100th Test.
So, with Pollard back in the No 10 jersey, will Saturday’s clash see the Boks push the All Blacks all the way again?
Wellington Teams In 2014
All Blacks: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Bench: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Cory Jane.
Springboks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Damian de Allende.@ashfakmohamed