The Springboks kick their Rugby Championship campaign off against Ian Foster’s beleaguered All Blacks in Mbombela this weekend.
A desperate New Zealand side head to South African shores for the opening fixture of the 2022 Rugby Championship. There is plenty of pressure on the visitors who just lost a home series against the Irish for the first time.
Can Foster and his boys put a terrible July behind them by getting one over the Springboks or will Jaques Nieabar’s men pile more misery on the Kiwis?
South Africa v New Zealand
Saturday 6 August
To Win Match
South Africa 7/10 | Draw 20/1 | New Zealand 12/10
South Africa (-2.5) 9/10 | New Zealand (+2.5) 9/10
Things have been far from rosy for the All Blacks this year. While their domestic sides were the dominant force in Super Rugby Pacific it seems that the weakening of that tournament due to the absence of South African sides has drastically affected the New Zealanders who were undercooked and bullied by the Irish forwards during their 2-1 series defeat.
Coach Ian Foster has come under fire from the press and the New Zealand rugby public after the series defeat with many pundits thinking the sooner Foster is shown the door the better for New Zealand rugby.
I actually am in agreement with the New Zealand press. Foster looks a man out of his depth and this has been evident for a while. He is yet to resolve the All Blacks’ midfield issues and has yet to find the right balance in his loose trio. In addition, he’s also failed to make big decisions like dropping Sam Cane or giving a player an extended run in the number 12 jersey.
Despite the mire the All Blacks find themselves in they will still be a dangerous prospect for the ‘Boks. The Kiwis have a very healthy record in South Africa having won 24 of the 50 games they have played in the country. Their recent record is far more impressive with the All Blacks having won their last four clashes against the South Africans in the Republic.
While the ‘Boks know they will face a tough foe this weekend their build-up for the game will have them feeling quietly confident. While the South Africans were far from flawless during their 2-1 July series win over the Welsh they did manage to build some solid squad depth.
One area of concern for Nienaber will have been the form of his fly halves with veterans Handre Pollard and Elton Janjties both well below par during the series. Pollard has cracked the nod for a start this Saturday and he will need to find some form if the South Africans are to get their Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start.
The Boks have named their team with Faf de Klerk starting ahead of Jaden Hendrikse. There is no space in the matchday 23 for either Duane Vermuelen or Frans Steyn. The All Blacks, on the other hand, could well tinker their run on 15 with Roger Tuivasa-Scheck surely being considered as a starter due to the physicality he can bring to the number 12 jersey.
Verdict: South Africa 7/10
I mulled this one over for ages. Honestly, if New Zealand had anyone else at the helm I would back them to bounce back. However, with Forster likely to field a very similar side to the one that lost to Ireland at the end of July, I just cannot see New Zealand bouncing back here.