JOHANNESBURG - It’s finally here ... the World Cup Pool B match we have all been waiting for; it’s the Springboks taking on the All Blacks in Yokohama.
If recent clashes between the teams are anything to go by, it should be a thriller. Here rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen looks at everything you need to know about the big match, from A to Z
A is for Ardie Savea:
The big flanker is the key man up front for the All Blacks - he carries strongly, runs hard and is brutal defensively. If there’s one forward the Boks have to keep a close eye on it is Savea.
B is for Beauden Barrett:
He’s the real-deal playmaker for the All Blacks - a slippery runner, good distributor and solid defender. But, having being shifted to fullback, will he be as influential? Richie Mo’unga will, surprisingly, wear the 10 on his back.
C is for Cheslin Kolbe:
The little guy with the big heart will be key out wide, fielding high balls and cross-field kicks so he’s got a huge role to play. At just 1.8m tall, he’ll be targeted for sure. But he’s also a genuine Bok weapon with his pace out wide.
D is for Defence:
World Cup wins against the top nations are not built on attacking rugby and try-scoring; they’re built on defence and so far in 2019 the Boks have been solid enough to be confident going up against the attack-minded All Blacks.
E is for Execution:
The Boks have played, and trained, regularly together in recent times and should be familiar with one another. There should then be no excuses for a wonky scrum or poor lineout; they will have to be precise in everything they do.
F is for Faf de Klerk:
The key man for the Boks ... everything goes through him and it’s his decisions that dictate how the Boks play. He’s going to have to kick smartly and perfectly, but also snipe and dart and run; a big game for the No 9.
G is for Game-plan:
The Boks’ plan under Rassie Erasmus is fairly basic ... it’s dominate up-front, win the set-pieces and only play wide when there’s a real chance on. In expected wet weather, there’s likely to also be a big kicking element.
H is for Handre Pollard:
The Bok flyhalf has come into his own in the last two years and is now up there with the best ... but this is his big test – in hot, humid and wet weather, with the pressure on. He needs to direct the play. His goal-kicking will be key.
I is for Impact.
Who’ll come off the bench and make the biggest impact? The Boks have a world-class front-row, an enforcer in RG Snyman and a try-hungry and game-changing No 9 in Hershel Jantjies. Who’ll do the business for the All Blacks – Sonny Bill Williams?
J is for Jerome Garces
: The French referee is an experienced operator but he’s going to be under enormous pressure in what could be the biggest pool game of the tournament. We must hope he makes no controversial decision that affect the outcome.
There will be extra scrutiny of referee Jerome Garces' handling of the match on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
K is for Kicking:
It is said that the teams that kick more also win more, so in what could be tricky and conditions, whoever wins the kicking battle - and that includes the fielding and chasing of kicks – could have the edge. And then there’s the goal-kicking!
L is for Luck:
Everyone needs a bit of luck to get ahead ... whether it’s a slipped tackle, an intercept, or the bounce of the rugby ball, there’s sure to be something over the course of 80 minutes that’s going to leave one shaking his or her head, and saying, “No way!”
M is for Malcolm Marx:
Just two years ago a New Zealand rugby scribe gave the Bok hooker a 10/10 rating after the Test at Newlands. Marx needs a repeat performance. His lineout throwing – sometimes his only weakness – will be crucial.
N is for No-nonsense:
It’s going to be another brutal clash, with big hits, hard carries and colossal collisions. The Boks must stand back for nothing, and get seriously stuck in, but crucially they’re going to also have to maintain good discipline.
O is for Opportunities
: An area of the Boks’ game that has improved drastically in recent times is their finishing; the wingers in particular have scored tries when the opportunities have been there. They’re going to have to take every chance in the opener.
P is for PSdT:
The big Bok work-horse, who’s become one of the game’s leading blindside flankers, will be tasked with stopping the likes of Ardie Savea and getting the Boks over the gain-line. If he shines, the Boks will shine, too.
Q is for Question:
Whether it’s in the scrums, rucks or mauls, whether it’s by a clever kick or clever lineout move, the Boks have to keep the All Blacks guessing and questioning what they’re going to do next. Predictability won’t cut it.
R is for Rassie Erasmus:
The Bok boss has done all his planning and plotting, and he’s supposedly ticked all the boxes, and now needs to direct affairs from up in the stands. His decisions, like when to bring on replacements, will be crucial in the opening fixture.
S is for Siya Kolisi:
He always talks about the leaders around him, but in this match, all eyes will be on the Bok skipper. He must lead by example and show his team-mates the way. Without a doubt his biggest match ever.
South Africa's Siya Kolisi receives the trophy after the RWC warm-up match against Japan at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Saitama, Japan. South Africa won 41-7. Photo: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
T is for Territory:
No team can thrive and win if they don’t ask questions in the right places. The Boks must aim to play their game inside the All Blacks half and look to pile on the pressure there. Kicking smartly will be important in this regard.
U is for Up-and-unders:
The All Blacks have been the masters under the high ball, but the Boks have caught up in recent times. No matter who’ll be doing the kicking, those going up for the ball must be committed and go flat out. There could be a bombardment from both sides.
V is for Victory:
The result won’t determine who goes on to win the tournament, but whoever comes out on top in this game will feel on top of the world. It will lay down a marker and boost confidence and belief – something every team wants early on.
W is for Weather:
One thing no-one can control is the weather and it’ll be interesting to see how both teams adapt and perform should it rain heavily during the game. We must hope the conditions so not spoil what should be a cracker-jack affair.
X is for X-factor:
With defences as tight as they are there is little room for so-called X-factor players to conjure up magic. But perhaps in a game as tight as this one is likely to be, there will be an opportunity for someone to do something special.
Y is for Yellow cards:
The costs of being punished and receiving a yellow (or red) card could be dire. It’s hard enough playing against the All Blacks with 15 men, but 14, or 13 just won’t do ... so the likes of Eben Etzebeth need to keep calm and focused.
Z is for Zeal:
This word is described as “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective”. Whether it’s dry or wet, hot and humid, the Boks must play with zeal against their greatest foes if they’re to bag a famous win and set them on their way.