Date: Saturday 20th August 2011
Kick-off: 16:00 (BST)
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Saturday is South Africa’s last chance to take away something from what has frankly been a disastrous Tri-Nations tournament ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Much was made last week by the local press and management about the return of South Africa’s leading stars such as Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Fourie du Preez. Yet despite leading 6-0 going into half time, South Africa imploded and in terrible conditions were unable to create scoring opportunities. The title is gone, but a win over New Zealand at home would ease pressure on both players and coaches, and give the Springbok faithful some optimism going forward.
So far, so good for the All Blacks. No major injury concerns coupled with a big win over South Africa and then a domination of Australia in Auckland has put them in pole position not just for the Tri-Nations, but the World Cup as well. Coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith will be hoping that the clash in Port Elizabeth is a physical one, to keep on hardening their team for the battle ahead on their own turf next month.
What To Expect:
South Africa simply have to win this. The forward dominance they experienced against the Wallabies will not come as easily against the All Blacks, so maintaining control in the scrums and lineouts is imperative. No selection is more telling than the dropping of captain John Smit to the bench, bringing in the world’s best hooker Bismarck du Plessis to control these crucial areas of play. They will look to keep it tight and powerful. As for New Zealand, Carter and McCaw are absent but the All Blacks will want to get new backs Isaia Toeava and Israel Dagg running, as both look to impress as they try and make the World Cup squad.
All Eyes On:
Willem Alberts has come in and taken the 7 shirt, and now that Juan Smith has sadly been ruled out of the World Cup, Alberts is the leading candidate for the jersey. His main rival is Schalk Burger, and with the Western Province man absent from the match-day squad, here is his chance to impress. His physicality should be no stranger to European viewers after he managed to score tries against Wales, Scotland and England last Autumn.
For New Zealand, Israel Dagg looked a certainty for the World Cup 12 months ago, after some impressive performances for first the Highlanders and then the Crusaders in Super Rugby. But his form has dropped, putting his participation in the World Cup in doubt. If he wants to really challenge Mils Muliaina, then he has to step up against the Springboks. He’s done it before though; Dagg’s try proved the winner in the 29-22 victory at Soccer City in Johannesburg last year.
Head-to-Head: Jean de Villiers & Jaque Fourie v Sonny Bill Williams & Richard Kahui
South Africa’s golden pairing are not the force they used to be, and while Jaque Fourie looked impressive last weekend Jean de Villiers best days seem long gone. But what better way to prove the critics wrong than taking the game to the “second-string” Kiwi pairing of SBW and Kahui? The idea of Sonny Bill being second choice to Ma’a Nonu seems crazy given how good a player he is, but that is the current situation and he will be set on giving Graham Henry a serious selection headache.
Even with the return of Bismarck, and New Zealand missing some big names, the All Blacks still seem to have enough firepower to win this one. But it will be very close. New Zealand by 3.
by Ben Coles