Durban - The cherry on the cake for the Springboks should they break their eight-year drought in Cardiff with victory over Wales on Saturday (7.30pm SA time kick-off) would be the recapturing of the No 1 spot on the World Rugby rankings, and this will happen if they win by a comfortable margin.
The All Blacks leapfrogged the Boks to the top of the rankings last weekend when they beat Wales 54-16, with the Boks inactive, and while the Kiwis are certain to beat Italy tomorrow, their points tally won’t change – they lead South Africa by a slender 0.26 points – but if the Boks win by at least 16 points (worth 0.31 points on the rankings), they can regain the top spot they held for nearly two years.
But a win by 15 or fewer points by Siya Kolisi’s men will garner them just 0.21 points, leaving them a tantalisingly 0.02 points behind the All Blacks.
If the truth were to be told, the world rankings will not have been weighing too heavily on the minds of the South Africans in Cardiff this week – a win will suffice, however it comes, just so long as the run of four consecutive defeats to the Welshmen in Cardiff comes to an abrupt end.
In general, Wales have become a thorn in the side of the Boks in recent years, winning five of the last seven games played between the countries.
It is true that the Springboks won the one that mattered the most – the World Cup semi-final in Japan two years ago – but the five losses since 2014 are irksome to the Boks.
One of the newcomers to the starting line-up, wing Jesse Kriel, played in the losses in Cardiff of 2017 and 2018 and he told the media that it is time the drought was broken.
“They were both close Tests and it was a different Wales coaching staff back then (Warren Gatland was in charge) and they had a very simple game plan that they executed really well,” Kriel said.
“We just didn’t handle it as well as we should have in those two games, but it is obviously something that we are aware of and it’s something we have worked hard on fixing.
“We have also come a long way as a team,” Kriel added with understatement given the Boks’ achievements since Rassie Erasmus replaced Allister Coetzee.
“It’s great that the whole squad has been kept together and we have this continuity.
“Everyone is very excited about this next chapter.
“It’s not going to be easy. It will be a massive Test match – it is always a grind against Wales – but one we have every reason to believe we can win.
“Obviously, we want to hit the ground running and kick the tour off with a win.”
The tour also includes Tests against Scotland at Murrayfield on November 13 (3pm) and England at Twickenham on November 20 (5.15pm).