Rugby Championship Ellis Park: Can The Springboks Trump The Mighty All Blacks?
The Springboks are welcoming the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship at Emirates Airlines Park (former Ellis Park) this weekend and bracing themselves for an all out scrum war.
Pieter de Villiers, Springbok scrum couch said that it’s going to be a tough battle upfront. Aside from the mutual respect between the world’s top two rugby teams come Saturday there will be no love lost.
He said that the All Blacks had a great scrum for many years now and to underestimate them in this department would be a serious error. In their previous encounter South Africa won 27-25, a titanic battle in which the home side made a fast start but the All Blacks upped their tempo and piled on the pressure in the closing stages.
If the Springboks want to beat the All Blacks it’s important that they get the basics right. Although the Boks were less impressive in the scrums during the last half-an-hour of their 24-20 defeat against the Australians in Brisbane last weekend, De Villiers said it boils down to a couple of factors. ”We were happy with how the scrums started off last Saturday, I think Heyneke Meyer did well to have faith in his Sharks front row.”
Although the Springboks had a blistering first half, the Aussies came back with a vengeance in the second half. When it came to scrum time, they changed their set-up by making shoulder contact before the engagement which disrupted the Bok scrum. The rotation of the props was necessary, De Villiers said. He also said that it’s important that Frans Malherbe gets some game-time so that he can prove his worth.
Strictly speaking it’s all about giving the new players more exposure leading up to the World Cup in England later this year. Although Victor Matfield and Scalk Burger are in doubt, Jean de Villiers won’t be rushed to resume the leadership against the All Blacks at Ellis Park this weekend.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said if both Matfield and Burger can’t play this weekend he’ll decide who’ll be the captain for Saturday’s test. He said it’s a toss up between Francois Louw and Bismark Du Plessis. I just received word that Schalk Burger will be the 55th Springbok captain for Saturday’s test against the Kiwi’s.
Come to think of it it’s an incredible turn around of events since he recovered from bacterial meningitis and had a cyst close to his spinal cord removed two years ago. Meyer also called up Flip Van der Merve to cover for the injured Matfield. In his warm up match last weekend for the Western Province, De Villiers came through unscathed said Bok team doctor Craig Roberts.
Jean played really well for 60 minutes. Roberts said that the chances were pretty slim that Matfied and Marcell Coetzee (knee injury) will be able to play this weekend. He said that the injuries Victor and Marcell sustained against the Wallabies will be reassessed just to make sure what they’re up against.
The All Blacks Out To Take Stock
All Black assistance coach and selector Ian Foster said that he’s expecting a good performance from his team. However, the focus is on the big prize at the end of the season namely the World Cup. He also said Saturday’s clash against the Boks is a fantastic opportunity to set some things straight and a good performance will confirm the direction in which we’re going.
The All Blacks’ backline and attack coach described Saturday’s Test as a real cracker but it would be interesting to see how the Highlanders and Hurricanes players perform. Foster said that it’s essential that the guys know what to do on the park. The question one has to ask are the All Blacks ready? One thing is a guarantee it’s going to be a physical battle of epic proportions. However, I’d also like to point out that the All Blacks were a little bit circumspect against Samoa since the team lacked cohesion.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen decided to leave Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of the 31-man squad. He stated that he wanted to test some of the youngsters in the team and what better place to do so than the ”intimidating cauldron” of Ellis Park.
“We have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions and what better place to find out some questions about people – it is a heck of a pressure situation, isn’t it, against one of the best teams in the world,” Hansen emphasized.
“We do have to take another step up. It’s a different test, especially coming over to South Africa. We know the challenge they present and they will be hurting after last week.” Kieran Read
The All Blacks’ defense is relatively vulnerable on their own line, Agustin Creevy Argentinian hooker scored twice from rolling mauls off lineouts. The Springboks are fully aware of this weakness and would like to exploit this. Saturday’s test is best described as the ”clash of the titans” a rivalry that sets the tone in world rugby.
Springboks: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Burger (captain), Francois Louw, Heinrich Brussow, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Flip van der Merwe, Warren Whiteley, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lionel Mapoe.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, James Broadhurst, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
Outcome: The Boks will win by a narrow margin.
Update: All Blacks trumped the Boks 27-20