Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s get ready to RRRUUUMMMBBBLLLE.
This is a 10 round heavyweight contest featuring, in the black corner and weighing in with serious intent, former World No 1 and World Cup Chokers Champions, the All Blacks. In the green corner, with the weight of a rainbow nation on it’s shoulders, the current World No 1 and reigning Champion of the World, the Springboks.
And it is a heavyweight contest between the two top-rated teams in the world. This match could determine the Tri-Nations outcome. A win away by any team is such a valuable commodity in this competition it is the determinant (to a lesser extent bonus points). Not that too many people are predicting an All Black win on Saturday.
The good news for the All Blacks is that it is in Durban, a venue at sea level. This may help them at the back end of the game considering they have played three matches in three weekends. They were looking very ragged in the first half last week making uncharacteristic errors all over the park. The sort of basic errors you just wouldn’t see a composed NZ side make. They’ve been a bit this way since the start of the season and are really not on top of their game.
They have made a couple of changes, one enforced the other tactical. Tialata was dropped from the squad altogether and is replaced by the new boy Owen Franks. This is his first run-on test and what a challenge it’ll be for him packing down against The Beast. The other is bringing back Cowan. He was replaced by Leonard last week despite having a very tidy game against the Wallabies. Leonard wasn’t able to get his running game going due to the pressure his pack was under. Cowan’s box kicking game was much superior and that’s what will probably be one of the tactics I’d expect. Afoa is on the bench to cover both sides of the scrum.
The Bokke have made three replacements from last week’s winning team. Pienaar is injured and replaced by Morné Steyn at ten. He is a more than adequate substitute and has been on form. Andries Bekker is fit again and comes onto the bench in place of Kankowski, Roussow retaining his reserve loose forward position. Adi Jacobs has recovered from his injuries and takes Steyn’s spot in the reserves.
The Springboks are deserved favourites and will be looking at a very rare double win against their historic No 1 foe. I can’t imagine too much variation from last weeks tactics by either side with the ball in the air a fair bit of the time. The kicking game of Steyn, Steyn and Donald (sounds like a law firm) will be of some importance. It would be nice to see a more expansive game from both sides but unlikely. In my view the Bokke are starting to peak and are looking the most confident and dangerous team. I think they’ll win by a greater margin than last week. Bokke by 15.
South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Wynand Olivier.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Cory Jane.
Date: Saturday, 1 August
Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17:00 (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales – the only gay in the village)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)