Battling the black tide

Springbok victories against New Zealand have been too rare. For this to be a rivalry the Springboks must beat New Zealand consistently, starting in Auckland on Saturday.

The Boks need the win to statistically claim to be New Zealand’s greatest foe in the professional era. Currently Australia can boast to have beaten the All Blacks more than any other team. The Aussies have won 14 and drawn one in 46 Tests. The Boks have won 13 in 48 Tests.

The All Blacks have beaten the Springboks 35 times in 48 Tests, which represents a winning margin in excess of 70 percent.

The All Blacks, pre professionalism, had a 43 percent win against the Springboks. They considered the men in green and gold their greatest challenge, their greatest foe and a win in the Republic was considered the greatest All Blacks achievement.

This has all changed in the professional era. The All Blacks win regularly in New Zealand and in South Africa. They’ve won at Loftus, at Ellis Park, at Soweto’s Soccer City, in Durban and at Newlands. They’ve shut out the Boks in South Africa, winning 19-0 in Cape Town, and they’ve demolished the Boks on occasions at altitude, winning 52-16 in Pretoria and crushing the Boks 32-16 a year ago at Soccer City (or FNB Stadium as some keep on correcting me).

They’ve won so much against South Africa in the professional era (35 times) that they can’t recall when they won and how they won. They only remember the ones they lose. We seem to only remember the ones we win. They have been so few, in the context of 48 matches, we can name them.

It’s time that started changing.

They’ve hurt too much from the one-off defeats and we’ve boasted too much about the one-off victories.

For this to be the rivalry it once was the Boks have to start beating the All Blacks home and away consistently.

It’s possible. Very possible.

We have the players, the coaches and hopefully under Heyneke Meyer the Springboks will show the mentality to back their pedigree and play the opposition on the day and not the legacy of the black jersey.

South Africans take comfort that they’ve won more in New Zealand (twice) in the last decade than any other team, but measuring our two wins against the zero and occasional French, English or Australian win on Kiwi soil should never be the barometer.

New Zealand are a great team. They are the greatest rugby nation, simply by weight of numbers. They’ve knocked over their most feared rival 35 times in 48 starts. You can’t argue with the volume of those numbers.

But you get a sense that if the Boks can just get this win in Auckland and do the All Blacks again at Ellis Park it could be the start in redressing the one-sided nature of the contest.

In 2009 the Boks did the All Blacks three-nil (two in South Africa and one in Hamilton, New Zealand) but couldn’t translate the achievement into any consistency the next year. The All Blacks walloped the Boks three nil, starting with a 32-12 bonus point try victory in Auckland.

The Boks should have won in Dunedin a year ago. They roughed up the All Blacks, physically battered them (with the exception of the mighty Richie McCaw). The All Blacks captain was phenomenal on the night but ordinarily Morne Steyn would not have missed five penalty kicks and the All Blacks, despite McCaw’s heroics, would not have escaped.

They know they got out of jail in Dunedin. They underestimated the challenge of the Springboks and they should have lost.

In Auckland they won’t underestimate this current crop of Springboks. They know this will be their most ferocious challenge since France in the 2011 World Cup final.

It is so important for the Boks to deliver on the expectation.

They couldn’t a year ago. I had them to win the return game, because of home ground advantage and because the All Blacks had already won the Rugby Championship. It turned into a rugby Test lesson for Meyer’s young Springboks.

This season they’re a year older, a year wiser and a year more mature.

The performance in Brisbane against Australia showed how good the Boks can be, but they will face a champion in Auckland; not the chump they chopped down in Brisbane.

World rugby wants this rivalry back. The game needs it. New Zealand, if they are to find the extra gear they always talk about or if they are to play that perfect game that eludes them, also need the Boks to knock them over with greater regularity.

The neutral in world rugby wants a Springbok win on Saturday. Yes I’ve canvassed opinion over the last 25 years.

It’s possible because the Boks have the quality to win.

Meyer’s got a special bunch of Springboks who can start clawing back the 34-13 professional era match imbalance … starting with Saturday.

Battling the Boks
*Since 1921 the All Blacks and Springboks have played 85 times
*The All Blacks have won 48 times
*The Springboks have won 34 times
*Before rugby turned professional the All Blacks had a 43 per cent winning record against the Springboks’ 50 per cent.?
*Since the game turned professional the ABs have had a 72.9 per cent victory record, winning 35 of their 48 matches.