History offers hope, not optimism

Zelím Nel

While a victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand would taxi South Africa onto the best available runway to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the record books predict that the Boks are bound to take off from something shorter and bumpier.

Supporters have got their tails up after the Boks cracked open the Rugby Championship with a 35-17 win against the Wallabies at Ellis Park – a result made more inspirational by the fact that Rassie Erasmus had deployed his B-team.

It improved South Africa’s record to 5-3 in their last eight matches which, more significantly, included a pulsating 36-34 victory in Wellington last September, the Boks’ first taste of success against the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009.

After two of the worst seasons in team history, Rassie Erasmus’ term has restored hope that South Africa is returning to the form that won two world championships. But blind hope and informed optimism are not the same thing, and South Africa’s record against the All Blacks, especially in New Zealand, doesn’t bode well for Saturday’s showdown at the Cake Tin.

Since the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the Boks have beaten the All Blacks seven times in 25 attempts (28%), including three wins on Kiwi soil in 12 Tests (25%).

In the 98-year history of this great rivalry, South Africa has only twice claimed back-to-back wins in New Zealand (in 2009 and 1937).

Erasmus has set the Boks up for their best possible opportunity to deal the All Blacks a hefty blow, parachuting some of his best troops into enemy territory one week early.

Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Makazole Mapimpi have been retained in the starting lineup, while grizzled veteran Duane Vermeulen will lead the invasion party from No 8 with Kwagga Smith set to earn his second Test cap at openside flanker.

New Zealand have remained relatively unchallenged at the top of the rankings since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, winning 86 of 103 Tests including eight losses and three draws.

The hope is that the Boks put a huge dent in the All Blacks’ confidence before the teams meet again in Japan. History cautions fervent supporters to expect a gutsy performance that ends in defeat.

All Blacks: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Bench: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 George Bridge

Springboks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel

- Zelim Nel

Let's chat

  • John Comyn

    Answers my question on PSDT. Great to see Kwagga getting a start. If anything he won’t let the Boks down. It’s also a strong bench with a nice balance. If Willie has one of those days Cheslin can easily slot into FB. Steyn covers 10 and 12 and RG will be rearing to go. Also a few “x” factor guys in the side.

  • Barry

    I agree Zelim, guarded optimism, but should we not first see who the New Zealanders plan to field before we make a call on this?

    • John Comyn

      From a SA perspective who would you rather have Barrett or Mo unga?

      • Barry

        I suspect we will get both – one on the bench – but given a choice probably Barrett because he has if-ish kicking. I think they will be more inclined to taking penalty kicks when on offer than just go for the corners as has been their modus operandi in the past. It burnt fingers in Wellington last time out!

        Concern for me is the SA hookers. Malcom is fine but Bongi’s throwing was not great last week and his on field stats about the park also not wonderful. Brits was better at throwing, but was bossed and turned over. Neither are obvious slot-ins should Malcom get injured!

  • Herman

    Wow a touch of pessimism from our local scribe, well done finally a bit of reality stricking. But then again we could have that Prince of centres DDA running rings around the AB’s and Mapimpi tackling the life out of them. We also could have oldies but goldies like fatty Stein and Will o’the wisp Willie bamboozling all and sundry defying their years and stunning the home crowd into silence.

    Then there’s jitterbug Polly ensuring the Ab’s get plenty of ball with those ‘educated’ high kicks of his and also sending those killer 15 metre touch finders soaring into the stands. On the other hand one can ask what the hell Malherbe is doing in this team, it couldn’t have been his form in SR or even when he played for the Boks last year. Maybe shrewd Rassie will only play him for ten minutes to confuse those not so bright New Zealanders.

    On the plus side however we do have three Lions in the pack and an old boy in Faf. Wow, I didn’t know Rassie cared. Or maybe he wants them there so they can blame those Lions guys if they lose. Yeah Rassie is a real smart feller hedging his bets like that.

    Like our scribe I also believe we will unfortunately come up short in this one. The real bad news is I can’t see us beating the Argies either. What then oh meticulous planner ? Cheers.

  • AZK

    Herman if you have nothing positive to offer – other than rant and rave – most would prefer if you didn’t comment. Maybe you should look up a kiwi or Aussie website and given them the benefit of you useless commentary…

    • Herman

      Dear AZK, Don’t assume everyone has their heads in the sand old chap but it’s your prerogative to criticize and I respect that. Just afford me the same leeway to express myself my way. If everyone sang from the same hymn sheet these sites would not be necessary. By the way the Boks record these past nine years including Rassie’s last year has been pretty woeful old chap, please give me something to cheer about.

      Let’s see how Wellington turns out then we can chat again. Cheers.

  • Dean Bright

    He’s back for more after hiding his head in the sand for awhile. All his predictions were completely off RE: Herschel Jantjies, the overseas players and the Boks winning the game against the Aussies. In hindsight he’ll call them a poor side and that we were lucky. 35-17, with 5 tries to 2 and getting beaten in every stat tells a story. Let’s not forget that it was essentially our B-side. Yet, somehow this guy still considers himself a fan Lol.

    • Herman

      The Aussies were one of the weakest sides in test rugby last year winning only four tests from twelve starts. Thus losing eight tests which is only slightly worse than Rassie’s seven losses out of fourteen starts. They have an excuse though if you consider how small they are in relation to the ‘abundance’ of talent at our disposal. What’s Rassie’s excuse then for last year especially when you add his storm troopers from overseas arriving in numbers as well ?

      Let’s see what comes out of Wellington then old chap, remember even a loss by one point and the RC is history for us AGAIN. Cheers.

  • Mark

    Well perhaps now Zelím Nel will checnge his final para

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