Rugby Championship Preview: New Zealand vs South Africa

The halfway point in The Rugby Championship has arrived, and with just one point separating South Africa and New Zealand at the top of the table, all eyes will be on Auckland this weekend, as the All Blacks and Springboks do battle at Eden Park. A win for either side will go a long way towards making their championship dreams a reality, but a win for the visiting Boks will be a significant blow to New Zealand’s hopes, who are already a point behind their rivals, and have to travel to Ellis Park in the final round of TRC fixtures.

New Zealand

The All Blacks laboured to a 28-13 victory over Argentina last weekend, and will be under no illusions that they will need to turn in an improved performance this week, if they are overcome the challenge of South Africa. One blow to New Zealand’s chances will be the omission of captain Richie McCaw, who is suffering from a knee injury, and will be replaced by the talented, but relatively inexperienced, Sam Cane. The loss of McCaw’s experience has been minimised by the returns of Ma’a Nonu and Liam Messam, with the former returning after missing the Argentina game through injury, and the latter making his first appearance in this year’s tournament, following a hamstring injury.

South Africa

Victories for the Boks in New Zealand have been rare of late, but this team has really begun to gel under coach Heyneke Meyer, and they are currently playing some of their best rugby since their 2009 series victory over the British and Irish Lions. History is certainly against South Africa, with New Zealand winning their last 30 tests at Eden Park, and having not lost to South Africa in New Zealand for the last four years. They also enjoy an enviable record of having lost just once in their last 27 tests home and away, with their sole loss coming at the hands of England at Twickenham in 2012. That being said, South Africa will have witnessed the pressure Argentina managed to put New Zealand under at points last week, and will be confident they have the ability to exert even more on a New Zealand side shorn of their inspirational captain.

All Eyes On

With McCaw out, the responsibility to fill his considerable shoes falls on his young deputy, Cane, but the openside flanker should be ably assisted by the returning Liam Messam. Such is Messam’s importance to the All Blacks, that Steven Luatua, who has barely put a foot wrong filling in for Messam during his injury, has found himself relegated to the bench, allowing the veteran to resume his role at blindside flanker. A fierce tackler and powerful ball carrier, Messam will have to be at his best at the breakdown on Saturday, otherwise the youthful Cane could find himself overpowered by the colossal Springbok pack.

There was a time when Morne Steyn was the unquestioned number two fly half in the world, playing second fiddle only to the illustrious Dan Carter. He was pushing the All Black hard for the top spot, but his form has dipped considerably over the last couple of years, and it is only now that he is beginning to regain that form that almost took him all the way to the top. An unerring goal-kicker, Steyn’s playmaking ability and distribution skills will be under scrutiny this weekend, as he will have to make the most of every opportunity that his forwards give him, especially if the Boks want to end their 76 year wait for a victory at Eden Park.

Head-to-head: Tony Woodcock vs Jannie du Plessis

This match-up pits the most experienced All Black forward on the pitch, against perhaps the most underrated South African forward of his generation, in a tussle of brawn, brains, and sheer brute force. Given that he plays in a front row with Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis, it’s easy to understand why Jannie often gets overlooked, but there is no questioning that he is one of the world’s top tighthead props. If he can get on top of Woodcock in the game’s opening salvoes, then it will go a long way towards giving the Boks the set piece dominance that they crave, and consequently allow them to unleash their dynamic back line. Woodcock, on the other hand, will know that if the All Black front row tries to go to head-to-head with their South African counterparts physically, they will likely come off second best, and if they are to emerge victorious on Saturday, they will need to outsmart them, starting with Woodcock himself.


The history books say this should be a New Zealand victory, but I can’t ignore South Africa’s form coming into this game, with their dismantling of Australia in Brisbane (another venue where history dictated they were likely to lose) in the forefront of my mind. The game should go right down to wire, but I can see the Springboks stealing this one. South Africa by 3.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

10 thoughts on “Rugby Championship Preview: New Zealand vs South Africa

  1. I think that the the authors words are carefully chosen and in context and i would agree. I would also add however two other aspects which could tip the game in Boks favour. Morne Steyne kicking out of hand has got to be accurate, in behind the AB back three and and not down the throat allowing counter attack from Dagg and company! I think also that, if the Boks can disrupt the ABs line out that will contribute considerably to putting pressure on the AB number 9 and 10. Going to be a great game , edge of seat stuff! Bring it on! Go you Bokka!

  2. I believe that South Africa will get beat pretty easily. The match is at Eden Park after all, not an easy place to pull out a victory. Also, the All Blacks are the form team in the Championship. South Africa was lucky to beat Argentina in the second match of the leg (Argentina practically gave them the game with all the penalties they gave up). I don’t believe that South Africa is as good as some think (though, I could be proven wrong, like what usually happens).

    Frankly, the All Blacks should not lose a game this year. This team looks amazing.

  3. Oh, I’m really disappointed that Steven Luatua has been dropped in favor of Messam. He looks like the next great All Black backrower.

  4. I dont think that the Boks were lucky to beat Argentina in Argentina . Never easy to win there and of course it was Penalties which gave the AB most points v Argies in New Zealand. Go you Bokka!

  5. All of the forecasting and comments prior to the game on the stengths, tactics of either team were put to rest by the most disgraceful refereeing performance I have ever seen whilst watching and/or playing in many parts of the world.This is not to gloss over the costly mistakes made at crititcal times in the game by the Boks which gave away easy points, however, there is no doubt that Bismark Deplessis sin bin and red card had a huge impact on the game. The tackle on Carter was perfecly legitable and what makes it worse, was, that that other clown involved in the decision , the perennial TMO George Yahoub was just as bad. It was obvious from the replays that tackler used his arms and that it was never a “no arms tackle! What a disgrace! Poite , whoever you are , go back and stay in France. The Red card “offence” was at best “dubious! Remember that , due to these decisons the Boks played without not only Du Plessis for 50min but Willem Alberts as well. The fact that the ref sent off Read with 7 minutes to go was neither here nor there. The game was over by then and the milions of people watching around the world were cheated out of a spectacular game of rugby. Of course not to forget Nonos , very dangerous, no arms tackle on John De villiers which only received a yellow card, was also a disgrace. Lets see how the citing commission see this one! I wrote a blog a few months go on my blog page as shown above entitled ” The Role of the TMO In Rugby” and, in light of this performance I think i will go back and edit! The IRB needs to take a long hard look at itself and who they are putting in charge of such important games!

    1. I haven’t watched the match yet, but I did see the first card on du Plessis. I felt the tackle was high and a penalty, but it definitely didn’t warrant a card. The tackle went above the line of the shoulders.

      Law 10.4 – Dangerous Play and Misconduct clearly states: (e) Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.

      Sanction: Penalty kick

      1. After watching the clip many times, I don’t know if it was dangerous. It was more of du Plessis going into the tackle with his chest and hitting Carter’s shoulder. Though, the tackle was definitely high in the sense that du Plessis’s shoulders were well above Carter’s shoulders when the tackle was initiated. I think the laws are ambiguous and can be interpreted both ways.

  6. Lessons learnt from the still evolving game:

    -psychological preparedness of match officials at such a high tempo match.

    -awareness of professional fouls players committ by match officials.

    -the two techniques displayed by one player the SA hooker.
    in one he was the initiater and the other he was the reciever.
    he learnt when to block the stand tackle delivered by Meesam.
    His temple could have met the full brunt of Meesams forehead if he had not blocked with his arm.

    -the first tackle he was correctly penalised.

    -the second he was not.

    if the fourth official had analysed the intent of Meesams tackle and the SA hookers block then Meesam was to be penalised.

    this was the intent of the same player when he tackled Dan Carter.

    The game needs more than a video refree in the box.

    -Hollywood acts (to draw penalties) on the field the game could learn from soccer.

  7. I had the priveledge of listening to both the South Africa and New Zealand commentary team after the first sin bin and both said no high tackle so that is the end of the matter for me. Lets now eagerly wait the return on 5th October!

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