Preview: New Zealand vs South Africa
South Africa will have to produce their best performance of the season if they want to avoid a heavy defeat to New Zealand on Saturday.
The All Blacks look unstoppable at the moment while the Springboks are with their backs against the wall. It’s that underdog mindset which has served them well in the past, but this is the worst Bok team in more than a decade facing a very complete New Zealand. The gulf between these two teams have never seemed bigger which means a Bok victory will be a massive upset.
The All Blacks simply don’t lose at home and while the Boks have historically been one of a few teams who could push them all the way, that seems highly unlikely this time round.
New Zealand endured a tough first-half against Argentina last week which gave them the wake-up call they needed that it wasn’t going to be an easy win. They adjusted accordingly and produced some spectacular rugby in the second half for a runaway victory.
South Africa will know they can’t simply hang in there for 40 minutes. The All Blacks usually get better as games progress and even if South Africa manage to still be in the game after the first 40 minutes, they will know the threat New Zealand poses in the second period. It will take an 80 minute performance for the Springboks to win this one.
Their defence will have to be organised and efficient and they will have to significantly improve their tactical kicking otherwise the likes of Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Julian Savea will make them pay.
Team news: New Zealand have made two changes to their matchday squad. Ardie Savea comes in for the injured Sam Cane with Matt Todd coming into the squad as loose forward cover. Lima Sopoaga replaced the injured Aaron Cruden on the bench.
Meanwhile, Pieter-Steph du Toit finally gets his first start of this year’s Rugby Championship, while Vincent Koch starts at tighthead prop and Willem Alberts and Malcolm Marx come onto the bench. Francois Louw will play in his 50th Test for South Africa this weekend. Du Toit replaces Lood de Jager, who sustained a severely bruised knee last week against the Wallabies in Brisbane, while Koch gets the nod ahead of Lourens Adriaanse, who started last week in Australia. The rest of the Springbok starting line-up is unchanged. There are however several changes on the bench. Promising Lions hooker Marx gets a first spot amongst the reserves, while Alberts fills the gap on the bench left by Du Toit. Amongst the replacement backline players, Damian de Allende swaps places with Lionel Mapoe.
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
2014: New Zealand won 14-10 in Wellington
2013: New Zealand won 38-27 in Johannesburg
2013: New Zealand won 29-15 in Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 32-16 in Johannesburg
2012: New Zealand won 21-11 in Dunedin
2011: South Africa won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth
2011: New Zealand won 40-7 in Wellington
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian de Allende
Date: Saturday, September 17
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardiner
Assistant Referees: Pascal Gauzere, Marius Mitrea
TMO: George Ayoub