Johannesburg - The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend with the Springboks hosting the All Blacks in Nelspruit. Thereafter, the greatest of rugby rivalries moves to Emirates Airline Park for their second match; and here Morgan Bolton expresses his wishlist for the mini-tour.
5 His 50th Marx
Malcolm Marx was one of the highlights of the three-match Test series against Wales.
The 29-year-old came off the bench in all three Tests with powerful effect. He runs hard; he defends like a beast; he can fold himself in half at ruck-time and stand his ground. Moreover, any concerns regarding his throw-ins at line-out time have evaporated.
If ever there was a definition of the BombSquad, it would say see Marx, Malcolm.
Germiston-born and bred Marx is on 48 Tests, so come the second match against the All Blacks in Johannesburg, he could possibly earn his 50th cap in front of his home crowd; and wouldn’t that be brilliant for this servant of SA rugby.
4 “Let’s f*** the up physically”
The Welsh got into the faces of the Springboks, especially during the first Test; and it paid dividends in the second when they recorded a historic victory, albeit against an experimental SA team.
In the third Test in Cape Town, the Boks blew the visitors off the park with a trademark powerhouse performance. It is that 80 minutes that must be rinsed and repeated in the coming weeks by Siya Kolisi and his men from the off against the Kiwis from the first minute to the last.
The Boks’ forwards must give their counterparts no quarter in the tight exchanges, and bully a pack that will be low on confidence after their recent Ireland series loss.
3 A 10 out of 10
Handre Pollard was better in the third Test, but there is no doubt that the flyhalf channel is a concern going into the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship. Elton Jantjies, you’d expect, will play a bigger role later in the tournament, leaving the No 10 jumper thin in depth.
Francois Steyn’s return alleviates some problems, but the utility-back is getting on at 35-years old. It will be, therefore, up to Pollard, Damian Willemse and Wille le Roux to get the second-five eight slot going. It is from there that the lacklustre attack of the Wales series must be rectified and hopefully, the trio can finally unleash the Bok backline.
2 Don’t see red
Sanzaar – insert exasperated eye-role here – has enforced the red card rule of a 20-minute sanction, with the sin-binned player then being replaced afterwards.
They call it a trial - a decision to ensure Xv v XV - but you can argue that it is to the advantage of the All Blacks and Wallabies. In SuperRugby this season, red cards were a chronic problem throughout the tournament to the point of farce. There were 22 of them in 91 matches.
Players simply did not seem to take head of the sanction.
Putting aside the debate of whether it improves the spectacle or not, the new rule could lead to some truly unhinged and dangerous play. The Boks must avoid such shenanigans at all costs, and take advantage of what might be perceived as "normal" play by their opposition.
Keeping their discipline over the two weekends will be key if they are to defeat and compound the woes of a desperate All Blacks touring squad.
1 Back-to-back victory
The last time the Springboks won two consecutive Tests against the All Blacks was in 2009. Indeed, that year the Boks did a treble of victories over the old foe home and away.
Nevertheless, a 13 year wait to repeat the feat is far too long and this is arguably the best moment as ever to beat the Old Foe twice in as many matches. Head coach Jacques Nienaber and his men have the perfect opportunity and must take full advantage of their homeground advantage and the current slump New Zealand are in.
Two victories will also set the Boks up to push for the Championship title.