Preview: All Blacks vs Springboks

Keo.co.za previews the Boks’ final Tri-Nations Test in Hamilton.

What’s got the All Blacks all bullish? But for a last-gasp Dan Carter penalty in Sydney, their Tri-Nations record would read played four, won one and lost three. It’s certainly a record more reflective of the quality in the All Blacks’ side at present.

Carter will ensure New Zealand lift their performance, and it’s true the All Blacks will be difficult to beat on Kiwi soil. But if the Boks rediscover their intensity, they’ll be too strong for the hosts.

Saturday’s game is South Africa’s last on tour, but there’s everything to play for. They may yet win the title if New Zealand fail to meet the mathematical requirement, but as John Smit has said, they don’t want to leave a potential title win to chance.

What would have fed the Boks’ dormant wrath are taunts from the Kiwi sector. The Bok scrum has been criticised for their shaky efforts (to be honest, the All Blacks aren’t doing to well if Owen Franks is the best they can offer at tighthead). Wallabies coach Robbie Deans lauded his side’s physicality in Brisbane and suggested the All Blacks need to replicate that effort if they’re going to stop the Boks at the breakdown.

Much is expected from the Bok tight-five. An improved scrumming performance is needed, but a more robust and clinical approach to the breakdown is mandatory. Heinrich Brüssow also needs to step up, as in the past two matches he’s failed to have his usual impact.

Whether Peter de Villiers has made the correct call in sticking with Brüssow is debatable, as Schalk Burger could be the wonder tonic for a Bok side in need of a particular type of invigoration. Burger will make an appearance in the second half, but the Boks can’t expect him to move mountains when the game is already lost and the visiting pack soundly beaten. If they’re going to clout the Kiwis, they have to do it from minute one.

Where De Villiers has finally got it right is the selection of Frans Steyn at fullback. Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn are so important to the Boks on attack, but the Sharks man will be important given he has the ability to turn defensive clearances into attacking opportunities.

Carter and Stephen Donald will attempt to find space at the back with their left and right boots respectively. Assuming Steyn gets into a favourable position, he has the ability to return those tactical probes with interest. And if he can do that, you’d bank on the Boks stealing possession from the lineout.

A lot’s been said about the Boks’ failings in the scrums and superiority in the lineout. These departments will be important, but they won’t be as important as the breakdown. The Boks need to bring the right attitude to Hickville on Saturday, otherwise they’re in for another paddling.

There are a few special players in this All Blacks’ side but it’s certainly not a special team. The Boks have the individuals and as shown in this year’s wins against the British & Irish Lions and the Australasians, they have the winning game plan.

The Hamilton faithful will bring their black raincoats and cowbells but they’ll be supporting the underdogs. Last week was a complacent showing by the Boks, a showing that could be the wake up call needed to complete a 3-0 drubbing of the All Blacks in 2009.

It’s going to be old school and it’s going to be ugly, but the end product is one of beauty. The forwards will overpower the old enemy and set the platform for the Bok halfbacks to launch the kick or unleash the running option.

A Tri-Nations title is within grasp for Smit’s team, but they’re going to have put their bodies on the line to attain it. It’s the Boks’ title to lose.

Prediction: Boks by 5.

New Zealand - 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 John Afoa, 18 Adam Thomson, 19 Rodney So’oialo, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Isaia Toeava 22 Cory Jane.

Springboks – 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Ruan Pienaar.

By Jon Cardinelli