JOHANNESBURG - Rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen looks at the 10 issues that will be crucial over the 80 minutes in Wellington tomorrow when New Zealand host South Africa in a Rugby Championship match
Conditions are likely to be good in the Westpac Stadium. According to weather forecasts, no rain is expected when the teams kick-off at 7.35pm (9.35am SA time), but it’s going to be gusty, partly cloudy and cold. The All Blacks will enjoy the dry conditions, which will suit their fast-paced running game, while the kickers will have to be especially accurate when kicking at goal.
All Blacks’ record
Kieran Read’s men have won 11 of the last 12 meetings between the teams and the All Blacks have not lost at home to the Boks in eight straight outings. The home team have also got an 87 percent win rate at the Westpac Stadium and have lost only three times at the venue in 18 years. The Boks have never won against the All Blacks at the venue.
South Africa have have had their line-out problems this year and can’t afford any slip-ups this weekend. Australia were gifted a try after a mis-calculated Bok throw last week and this time Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi are going to have to be spot on hitting their targets. If they get things right, the line-out drive could be a big weapon for the Boks.
Maintaining possession and playing with quick recycled ball will be key for the Boks. Every Bok player will have to do his bit at the tackle-area; clean out quickly and swiftly and slow down the New Zealand ball. If they don’t win this battle, the All Blacks will make the Boks pay.
The Bok No 10 has been backed ahead of Elton Jantjies because he is bigger, attacks the gain-line better and has generally played well against the All Blacks before. Pollard owes his country and coach a huge performance.
Faf de Klerk
The Bok No 9 is good enough to be the spark to ignite his team, but he goes into the game after a horror-show in Brisbane and plenty of pressure on him to make things right and deliver a knockout performance. He needs to do the basics well this week and kick accurately; and not stand back to his opposite, Aaron Smith - the world’s best No 9.
He started off the bench a week ago but the last time the Bok hooker played against the All Blacks his performance was hailed one of the best ever seen against the New Zealanders. Marx hasn’t been at his best in the internationals up to now but can turn it on at any stage and doing that tomorrow will be a major boost for the Boks.
The last 20 minutes
How often have we watched the All Blacks be involved in a tight contest at half-time in their games just to run away with the match in the latter stages? They’re fitter, faster, stronger and more skilful than the other teams and for the Boks to have a chance they need to keep the All Blacks in check in the final 20 minutes.
When you look at the sets of players who are supposed to come on and change the course of the game, or up the tempo it is the All Blacks bench that has X-factor and power - Patrick Tuipolotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie. The Boks will hope RG Snyman, Elton Jantjies and Cheslin Kolbe come good - if it’s not too late.
A whole lot of luck
This current group of Bok players have little, to no, fond memories of facing the All Blacks machine. They lost 57-0 last year in North Harbour, but they did push them close in a “meaningless” game at Newlands last October. They’ll take some belief out of that, but they’ll need plenty of luck and good fortune, too, if they’re to do the unthinkable.