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Rugby Championship: New Zealand v South Africa Preview
Our rugby scribe takes a look at Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between New Zealand and South Africa.
The joy of Saturday morning rugby has already turned sour for South Africans as our boys were outclassed by a mediocre Australian side out in Brisbane last week. While the Springboks do still occupy second place in the Rugby Championship log, It’s only because they are yet to come up against the all-conquering All Blacks. That will all change this Saturday as the 'Boks travel down to Canterbury to take on Steve Hansen’s men.
So can the struggling Springboks perform a miracle and break New Zealand’s 34-match home winning streak or will New Zealand wrap up the 2016 Rugby Championship style?
New Zealand v South Africa | Saturday 17 September | AMI Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/20 | Draw 30/1 | South Africa 9/1
New Zealand (-22.5) 9/10 | South Africa (+22.5) 9/10
The All Black’s performance against Argentina should have Allister Coetzee very worried. The ease in which the Kiwi’s moved through the gears was quite astonishing – at times in the second half, it really looked like men against boys. It must also be added that the Argentines were really on their game last Saturday. They came out firing scoring the opening try and only trailed by five points as the teams headed in for the interval.
What happened next was absolute carnage with the All Blacks running in five second-half tries – it really could have been more had it not been for a few handling errors and some desperate last ditch defending from Los Pumas – while the Argentines only managed to add three points to their tally.
These second half try onslaughts are starting to become this New Zealand side's trademark. Their June series against Wales followed a similar script with the Dragons being put to the sword in the second stanza after going into the half-time break with every chance of winning the game.
This doesn’t bode well for Coetzee and his charges as they’ve looked rather fragile during the second 40 of their last two games.
Key to New Zealand’s second half dominance has been the impact of their bench. This is to be expected as the squad depth they have is absolutely absurd. Charlie Faumuina, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, and Anton-Lienert-Brown have helped up the tempo of New Zealand’s play when they’ve come on in the second-half. And while Savea is probably the most devastating impact player in the game currently – the Hurricanes man gets a start this week with Sam Cane ruled out with a hamstring injury – his fellow bench men are sure to up the intensity level when they take to the field.
Ardie Savea’s elevation to the starting XV is one of the changes Hansen has made to his matchday 23. The other changes see industrious Crusaders’ man Matt Todd join the bench along with Highlanders pivot Lima Sopaga, who replaces the injured Aaron Cruden.
The ‘Boks’ identity crisis reached Caitlyn Jenner-esque proportions last week after a promising start, which saw them take an early 14-3 lead, was wasted with the Springboks once again going back into their shell and ultimately allowing the Wallabies to gain the ascendancy.
As a Springbok supporter, it was immensely frustrating to watch Allister Coetzee’s men capitulate against such a poor Australian side. While the Australian press has thrown a bit of praise their national team's way, describing the Wallabies performance as a gusty and wholehearted one. I really don’t buy into this, however.
The defending champions were piss poor. Bernard Foley, who has been in horrific form this year, was made to look like a magician by South Africa’s centre pairing, while Israel Folau had an absolute field day in the last line of defence with the South Africans opting to bombard the Aussie Rules convert with bomb after bomb, up and under after up and under, Garryowen after Garryowen....... I could really go on with the up and under synonyms but the deadline for this piece is fast approaching.
It is tactical suicide kicking high onto Folau. The highball is absolute bread and butter for the Waratahs man who stands at 1.93 meters tall and has a leap that many Alaskan Salmon would envy. And here’s the thing, those instructions aren’t coming from Adriaan Strauss or any of the leadership playing core, Elton Janjties and Johan Goosen aren’t kicking high on a whim, these directions are coming from the coaching staff.
I had high hopes for Coetzee, and I do still harbor a shred, but the former Stormers coach needs to pull thumb now. It’s all well and good going the conservative route while you acclimatise to the job but you have to win games if you’re going to take this approach.
Your defence also needs to watertight if you're going to kick most of your possession away - there are so many holes in the Springboks defensive line, that you could drive a bus through them without a player even getting a touch. This defensive ineptitude will be dramatically exposed by a rampant New Zealand backline this coming Saturday.
In terms of team news, Allister Coetzee has made one enforced change to his starting XV and one rotational switch. The enforced change sees impressive Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit replacing Lood de Jaeger while the other change sees Vincent Koch come in for Lourens Adriaanse.
The Stats That Matter
I am not going to bother with the usual head to head results because they will have absolutely no bearing on this game. Instead, I am going to take a look at the two sides 2016 form.
The All Blacks are yet to lose a game this year. Their 2016 results read like this: 46-6 win v Wales, 36-22 win v Wales, 39-21 win v Wales, 42-8 win v Australia, 29-9 win v Australia, 57-22 win v Argentina. So there smallest winning margin this year is 14 points and their largest winning margin is 40 points.
South Africa’s 2016 form is bordering on tragic when compared with their opponents: 20-26 loss Ireland, 32-26 win v Ireland, 19-13 win v Ireland. 30-23 win v Argentina, 26-24 loss Argentina, 23-17 loss Australia.
Verdict: New Zealand (-22.5) 9/10
It’s a huge handicap but I’m confident New Zealand will clear it especially with no rain being forecast by the local weather bureau. Get on New Zealand to clear the -22.5 at 9/10.