PRETORIA – It’s the final showdown of the year between the Springboks and All Blacks, kicking off at Loftus Versfeld at 5.05pm this afternoon.
While Steve Hansen’s men have already wrapped up the Rugby Championship title, Rassie Erasmus’ charges won last time out, beating their arch-rivals 36-34 in Wellington three weeks ago.
Here, rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen highlights the four key areas the Boks must tick if they’re to make it back-to-back wins against the All Blacks this season…
Attack with precision
In good, dry conditions, the All Blacks normally have a field-day. They’ve scored heaps of points on the Highveld before, and are more than likely to do so again today.
They’re a team that often hit the 30-point mark, meaning the Boks must get there too.
They did it in Wellington three weeks ago, scoring five tries – some of them well-carved out, others through sheer opportunism and putting pressure on their opponents.
Halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard will be crucial in dictating matters for their team, which will allow the likes of Aphiwe Dyantyi, Cheslin Kolbe and Willie le Roux to come into the picture.
Defend like Trojans
The Boks pulled off over 230 tackles in the “Wonder of Wellington”, and will most probably be required to do the same again if they’re to get over the line as the victorious team.
They can prepare themselves for a fired up All Blacks outfit, who know they let themselves down three weeks ago.
Aaron Smith will be the fire-cracker at scrumhalf, Beauden Barrett will be desperate to make up for his off-day in Wellington, while centres Sonny Bill Williams and Jack Goodhue have all sorts of skills that will keep the Bok defenders on their toes.
And then there are the wings, Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane – it’s going to have to be a big Bok effort.
The good news for the Boks is that flyhalf Handré Pollard has performed better and better as the season’s gone on, and in recent weeks has not only kicked well out of hand, but at goal too.
He will again have to be on the mark this weekend – in both departments – and including his kick-passes to his wings.
Any poor kicks will be harshly dealt with by the New Zealanders who thrive on turn-over ball and in space to run in from the back.
And then No 9 Faf de Klerk, too, will have to find his kicking range; something he didn’t always manage against the Wallabies last week, or in Wellington.
Go the distance
One of the major reasons why the Boks were able to beat their biggest rivals three weeks ago is because they were able to hang on for the full 80 minutes.
Their strong defence in the dying stages ensured the All Blacks didn’t score what would have been a match-clinching try, but more than that they didn’t allow their opponents to run away with the contest in the second half – something the All Blacks have become quite famous for.
Whoever is able to go the distance today, and basically outlast the other in what should be a high-paced game, will come out on top. The benches will thus be key.
Teams For Loftus Versfeld
Springboks: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.
All Blacks: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Bench: Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia). Kickoff: 5.05pm.