CAPE TOWN – The All Blacks are in town, and the time has come for the Springboks to face their demons at Newlands on Saturday.
The record 57-0 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks in Albany a few weeks ago still hovers like a big, dark cloud over South African rugby, even though the Boks nearly hit back in ultimately drawing 27-27 with the Wallabies in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
Some Bok fans on social media fear the worst, predicting that it could get even nastier for Allister Coetzee’s team on Saturday as the already-crowned Rugby Championship winners showed no signs of slowing down in carving up Argentina 36-10 in Buenos Aires – with a slightly weakened team.
Yes, that’s right… All Black coach Steve Hansen sent five players – Sam Cane, Ryan Crotty, Lima Sopoaga, Liam Squire and Sam Whitelock – to South Africa instead of Argentina, and they arrived in Cape Town on Saturday already.
And it would have been six but for Brodie Retallick’s unfortunate personal situation that has seen him remain in New Zealand.
So, coach Steve Hansen’s men are primed for one more big effort at Newlands, with talk in New Zealand media being that Sopoaga could even start at flyhalf in place of star playmaker Beauden Barrett. Imagine how the Boks would feel when Barrett comes on the second half…
But in Allister Coetzee’s world, all is hunky-dory – okay, not quite – with the Bok coach insisting that his team had moved on from the Albany “blackwash” through their performance against Australia in Bloemfontein.
“It’s out, it’s out already, it’s done. I’ve got to be the psychologist if there is no one around! So, that 57 is out of the system already,” Coetzee, who was in a good mood, said at a press conference on Monday.
“Therefore, we were unlucky not to win last week. But coming back from such a big score, turn it around against a fantastic Wallaby side… You look at Genia, then the guy who got his 50th cap, Bernard Foley, if you look at the inside centre – Kurtley Beale is a seasoned campaigner who came back from Europe.
“Tevita Kuridrani is their 13, Reece Hodge is a good, good player and Israel Folau at the back – that is a classy side.
“And to come from that big loss in Albany, and still be in a position to win it in the end, that has certainly turned the tables around and put the Albany match behind us.”
Coetzee added that he was not going to call up any further loose-forward reinforcements following the withdrawal of the injured No 8 Uzair Cassiem, who Bok team doctor Konrad von Hagen said would be out for six weeks with a rib problem.
“Raymond Rhule is back, Sbusiso Nkosi is back, Dan du Preez is back, and we are fine and happy with that. There is no need to call in any extra numbers in the loose-forward department,” the coach said.
“I was happy with the performance and the way we played. Unfortunately a couple of opportunities went begging – there are a few tries we are unhappy about. But we still saw a number of opportunities, and the finishing must still come.”