Rugby Championship 2018: South Africa v New Zealand Preview

Eben Etzebeth - Aphiwe Dyanti - Makazole Mampimpi

South Africa and New Zealand will conclude their Rugby Championship programme for 2018 in what should be a thrilling contest in Pretoria on Saturday.

Date: Saturday, October 6
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Matthew Carley (England)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

To Win
South Africa 15/4
Draw 30/1
New Zealand 2/11

South Africa (+13.5) 9/10
New Zealand (-13.5) 9/10 

Although the All Blacks secured their third successive tournament title when they beat the Pumas in Argentina last week, they will be out for revenge in this encounter as they have a score to settle with the Springboks, who claimed a shock 36-34 victory in the corresponding fixture in Wellington last month.

That result was the All Blacks' first defeat in the Rugby Championship since 2015 and ended a six-match winning streak against the Boks, which means the world champions will not lack motivation this weekend.

The Springboks head into this match with plenty of confidence after that triumph in Wellington and a win over the Wallabies last weekend. The home side also have an impressive record at Loftus Versfeld, winning 77 percent of their 35 previous Tests played at the venue.

However, Loftus is a happy hunting ground for the All Blacks too as they have played five Tests there, winning four and losing only one, in 1970, and they registered a 45-26 victory in their last Test there in 2006.

Despite that impressive record, All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is wary of the Boks, and expects another tough encounter.

"They are a pretty confident side the Boks, they've grown another arm and a leg since they knocked us over in Wellington," he said.

"Thought they played really well against Aussie, they will be looking forward to fronting up again on Saturday."

Hansen believes Saturday's Test will be a gruelling affair which will go down to the wire.

"You've got two teams that are going to go at it, two big bulls in a bullpen – last man standing so to speak," he added.

"That's what Test rugby is all about and I think that is what the fans want to see too.

"They want to see real close games, whilst you reflect on the game back there where we lost. Which wasn't great but I think everyone that watched the Test were excited about it."

Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus said although his team has some momentum going into this Test, they will be looking to improve in all areas against a quality All Blacks team.

“They will test us in every department,” he said.

“The All Blacks usually hit back hard after a loss so we have to be mentally and physically ready for a massive contest. We will have to front up in defence and be clinical when we're creating chances because the All Blacks punish you for errors and missed opportunities.

“The Springboks versus All Blacks at a packed Loftus, I think it’s going to be a special occasion.”

Players to watch:

For South Africa: If the Springboks want to repeat their heroics from Wellington this weekend, they will need their scrum-half Faf de Klerk to be at his best. The Sale Shark has played every minute of every match for South Africa in this year's Rugby Championship which highlights his importance to the Springboks cause. De Klerk's game-breaking skills are superb and his sniping breaks around the fringes of the rucks and mauls is sure to provide an attacking platform for the Boks.

For New Zealand: Although the All Blacks have numerous players who are brilliant with ball in hand, one player who has come to the fore with outstanding performances on attack is their young try-scoring sensation, Rieko Ioane. The 21-year-old is the leading Test try-scorer in the world in 2018 with nine five-pointers so far. Ioane scored his 20th try last weekend - in his 19th Test - which made him the 34th All Black to score 100 points in Test matches. He is also the 21st All Black to score 20 tries in Test matches.

Head-to-head: There are several intriguing duels across the park, the battle between the two hoookers, Malcolm Marx of South Africa and New Zealand's Codie Taylor is one which should have a huge bearing on the end result. Although Marx is powerful in the tight exchanges, Taylor is also solid in that department although the Springbok has an edge at the breakdown where he has a low centre of gravity and is brilliant at winning turnovers. However, Taylor's general play is superb as he has the skill-set of a backline player, ability to create chances for his team-mates and to round them off as well.

Verdict: South Africa (+13.5) 9/10
With the Springboks high in confidence and in search of their first back to back victory over New Zealand, and with Loftus being the 16th man. We could be in for a thriller.  

Previous results:

2018: South Africa won 36-34 in Wellington
2017: New Zealand won 25-24 in Cape Town
2017: New Zealand won 57-0 in Albany
2016: New Zealand won 57-15 in Durban
2016: New Zealand won 41-13 in Christchurch
2015: New Zealand won 20-18 in London (RWC semi-final)
2015: New Zealand won 27-20 in Johannesburg
2014: South Africa won 27-25 in Johannesburg

Prediction: After their stunning win in Wellington, the Springboks will fancy their chances in their backyard. However, lightning will not strike twice and the All Blacks will take this one, albeit narrowly. New Zealand to win by six points.

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Ryan Crotty

Image: Gallo Images

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