Rivalry sparks to life

Jon Cardinelli

The All Blacks have deviated from the usual pre-match script ahead of the Test in Pretoria. It’s a good sign for the Springboks as well as a boost to a rivalry that’s been in danger of fading into irrelevance over the past three years.

Several players have come forward since the loss to the Boks in Wellington and spoken of a collective desire to set the record straight. At a press conference held in Johannesburg earlier this week, Ryan Crotty, one of the leaders in the side, went out of his way to remind local reporters that the All Blacks are still the team to beat.

Something should be read into Crotty’s comments and demeanour at that press conference, though. The Boks rattled the All Blacks with their offensive defence in Wellington. When this was put to Crotty, however, he spoke of weaknesses in the Bok defensive system and how they could be exploited by a more accurate side.

The Boks scored five tries against the All Blacks, a remarkable feat given their attacking struggles in New Zealand over the years. When this was pointed out to Crotty, the veteran centre shrugged.

“We gifted them a couple of tries,” he said matter-of-factly.

Hooker Codie Taylor attempted to duck a barrage of questions that encouraged a comparison between himself and Bok counterpart Malcolm Marx. Crotty jumped in with an assertion that, given the choice, he’d take Taylor over Marx any day of the week.

Talk about showing a red flag to a bull. If Marx doesn’t view this statement as a challenge, the partisan crowd at Loftus – one would expect a large contingent of Lions fans to make the 40km journey north – certainly will. Did Crotty really need to give 52,000 South African fans another reason to heckle and abuse the All Blacks this Saturday?

It’s hard to remember when last the All Blacks were this cocky in public. Then again, it’s been a long time since the Boks beat the All Blacks in a game that really mattered and gave the global community cause to look upon the rematch with real interest.

The Rugby Championship title won’t be on the line when the teams clash at Loftus on Saturday. The result, however, could echo into the November Tests – where the All Blacks will face Ireland and England – and indeed the 2019 World Cup. Two wins against the All Blacks would do wonders for a developing Bok side ahead of the Pool B showdown between the teams in Yokohoma next September.

The Boks should take the All Blacks’ pre-match banter as a genuine sign of respect. The All Blacks are coming forward in the media with bold and unsolicited statements. They’re playing mind games and trying to unsettle their opponents before kickoff.

It’s a good sign for the Boks, and a great result for the rivalry. The All Blacks desperately want to win this match. Going by what’s been said in the Bok camp, the hosts won’t want for motivation either.

In 2013, there was a similar buzz in the buildup to the All Blacks-Boks fixture. Heyneke Meyer’s side went into the game at Eden Park on the back of nine consecutive victories. The manner in which the Boks dismantled the Wallabies in Brisbane prompted critics in New Zealand as well as South Africa to wonder if the Boks were finally ready to challenge the All Blacks at the New Zealand rugby fortress.

Then referee Romain Poite burst the bubble with a series of poor and – by most accounts – game-wrecking decisions. The buzz was there again in the buildup to the next meeting at Ellis Park, and the All Blacks settled many a debate when they emerged comfortable winners.

There’s no denying that the All Blacks are well ahead in this rivalry as far as results in the professional era are concerned. Since 1996, the Boks have won 25% of their Tests against the All Blacks.

As bad as that record looks, South African fans can reflect on the late 1990s and most of the 2000s as the good old days when the Boks beat the All Blacks regularly at home. Since Steve Hansen took charge in 2012, however, the All Blacks have won five of out six Tests in South Africa.

Will those numbers matter this week? Ask Crotty and company if they’re comforted by the fact that the All Blacks have dominated the fixture in recent times, and if their excellent record at Loftus means anything at all.

Three weeks ago, few would have predicted that the Boks would get within 10 points of the All Blacks, let alone beat them in New Zealand. Now, after that rousing performance and monumental result in Wellington, there’s a question mark hanging over the fixture at Loftus.

The Boks have already beaten the All Blacks, and the players as well as the public have a concrete reason to believe that the men in green and gold can succeed again. The All Blacks will be favourites to win, but few if any will make that prediction with pre-Wellington certainty.

Perhaps this is the greatest indicator that the Boks have progressed and that there is life in the old rivalry yet.

Jon Cardinelli is sarugbymag.co.za’s Chief Rugby Writer

- Jon Cardinelli

Let's chat

  • John Comyn

    The first time for a while supporters and the team go into a game against the AB’s believing we can win. Before the Wellington game narrative was, losing by anything less than 10 points would be a good result going forward. The AB’s have travelled a bit, they are playing on the Highveld and they were not that flash against the Argies. So perhaps Crotty should put a lid on it. The fat lady has not starting singing just yet. GO BOKKE!

  • Arch Rautenbach

    I think Crotty should change his name to cocky. I really hope the Springboks can shut the All Blacks up. Everything I’ve heard from them this week has been that they gifted the Springboks the victory three weeks ago. As if the Boks weren’t a good team and didn’t deserve the victory. The Boks absolutely deserved the victory and rattled the All Blacks. You could see that. But still the All Black could have gotten the win if they just went for the drop goal in front of the poles. But they were too cocky, and now the result stands. This week will be a whole different thing. Both have a point to prove.

    • Nezo

      Its unfortunate that they think we did not derseve the win. As if they gave us the match. But its alright.

      We on the other hand. We respect them. They have been the best team in the world for a while. We confess.

      I only hope by God’s mercies that we win so that the rivalry can truly be back. I think the death of the rivalry is the WRONG THAT NEEDED TO BE CORRECTED. our win will be good for rugby as a whole. Not just out country.

      • Glen

        just because one player was a bit of an arsehole, does not mean the entire team (or nation) feels that way. I am sure there is many in the team/coaching staff/nation who respect the Boks. Too many people these days seem to take individuals as representing/speaking for an entire group/team/culture/nationality/ethnicity/gender/etc

  • Vossie

    It’s been a while since we have seen the AB’s playing mind games, it just shows that this rivalry is back where it should be. Would love to see the Boks overpower them on Sat! I wonder who they will find to blame then? The ref? Barret? or perhaps they will go with “we gifted them the match”
    GO BOKKE!!!

  • Barry Smith

    The AB’S have a significant psychological monkey to contend with. If they are able to beat SA, they will go some way to restoring the calm, but if they lose, then the cat will be in at the pigeons and the rest of the rugby world will start to believe that they are indeed beatable! They understand what is at stake!
    In a way, there is considerably less pressure on SA. We understand the significance of what we face and have realistic expectations.
    The pressure is, for a change, all on NZ!
    Another “in your face” approach may just be enough to set them wobbling a bit….Game on!

    • SweetAz

      Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice to have had Marcel Coetzee and Bismark Du Plessis to help out with that “in your face”? Bismarck starting and Marx coming on the second half.

  • Mike Stoop

    No chance the ref will be blamed. He is an Aussie and knows that all South Africans are borderline psychopaths and should be treated as such. And so many of them speak English quite poorly. That implies that they are too dumb to understand the rules. If players can’t speak English properly, they surely will have trouble reading and understanding anything, not?

    This ref does not know where the offside line is when the Boks are playing. Remember Mendoza. He also does not believe that a South African side can fairly gain the upper hand in a scrum, or that infringing against the Boks in a drive from a lineout requires any sanction apart from a possible warning.

    • SweetAz

      Yeah, he was really poor in that game, he also doesn’t seem to understand the new ruck laws. Hopefully, someone from the referee’s panel has taken him aside and critiqued that performance otherwise it’s going to be a putrid match. I remember the game the AB’s played against Ireland after they lost in Chicago and I KNOW they are going to be dirty. Ioane is a fight looking for a place to happen and if someone in the Boks can just niggle him a little bit it will be a red card.
      It would be so cool to see the AB’s for a change have to play the match with 14 men,—-Now wouldn’t THAT be a first.

      • Mort

        Money on the ABs to do an ‘O’Drisco’l to Faf.
        Boks have no cover at 9
        Faf also lynch pin of our defence.

    • Barry Smith

      Agreed “Agnus” Gardner is, at a stretch, poor!!

      You’re surely not suggesting that Aussies, “spoke British proper”?

      • SweetAz

        lol, I constantly tease them about being semi-literate Antipodean yobs who can’t find a use or meaning for 5 vowels.

    • John Comyn

      Stay positive Mike! Who is the ref?

      • John Comyn

        I wanted to call him a prick but then thought it better not to.

        • SweetAz

          Just call him “Richard”, after a while, they normally figure it out.

      • John Comyn

        Just found out it’s that Gardner

        • Vossie

          Gardner will be assisted by Frenchman Jerome Garces and England’s Matthew Carley, with another Englishman, Graham Hughes, the television match official (TMO).

  • John Mohammed

    If the stars and the planets align, the final of the RWC will be the 100th test between these 2 great rugby nations. Just think how fitting that would be!

    • Nezo

      Wow that would be really nice

  • Wesley

    I got kind of angry, and then glad again after reading what Crotty and his teammates are saying. Thats an AB team under the cosh, with fear of losing in their minds, desperate for any mental edge. If they cant put us away well, they will be disappointed. But us winning even by only 1 point puts a massive dent not only in their rating, but their psyche too. By losing, we have only to feel aggrieved that the progress we have shown takes a knock back by about 3 games, but them losing 2 in a row to us puts them back to 2009.

    Haha, its gonna be epic!

  • Albert

    At this stage I don’t know what would be worse. NZ losing would surely see them work extremely hard to cut those small weaknesses and walk to the WC title next year. A Bok loss would have all the Lions fans screaming for the Rassie’s head, and all the “I told you so’s” and blaming the loss on a lack of Lions players.

    To be completely frank, I would rather the Boks win, show they aren’t just one hit wonders, the country backs the youngsters and coaching team and even start thinking that maybe just maybe we can pull a true bit of Madiba magic and lift the Webb Ellis. And in 2019, the wounded Kiwis steamroll the world to their 3rd consecutive WC…or do they?

    Whoops, my alarm just went off.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Albert. Yes 12 Stormers past and present in the 23 gives me a lot of confidence, lol. With only 4 Lions in the mix ( ignoring the fact that they were responsible for most of the tries this season if you include Faf and Willie ) the others might just be lucky and miss a very horrible outcome. If we are taken apart I will be saying ‘I told you so’. Even if we lose by a point or two through dom krag defence for 80 minutes I’ll still say ‘I told you so’.

      A win by any margin playing positively ( by that I mean scoring more tries than them ) I’ll accept gracefully and doff my cap to the match day squad. My prediction 39-21 to the AB’s 5 tries to two or an 18 point winning margin. Let’s have yours. Cheers.

      • SweetAz

        Wow, what a thoughtful, insightful and brilliant comment, I don’t know how you do it. Can you tell us some more?

        • Herman Schroder?

          How much you prepared to pay me ? Cheers.

  • Roland

    Looking forward to this one, but hope that the boks can weather the All Black assault as this will be probably the hardest game the boks have played in a decade, yes a decade.

    The all blacks is a team that shows no mercy and will do anything to win. The last time they lost to the boks was down to a cheap shot on Lambie and the help of a tele ref.

    I sure hope that the boks can back up their performance and get another win. It will be a huge step forward for the boks. We have most of the players and none of them are that inexperience.

    Kitshoff – 3rd Season
    Marx – 3rd Season
    Malherbe – 6th Season
    Etzebeth – 7th Season
    Mostert – 3rd Season
    Kolisi – 5th Season
    PSDT – 5th Season
    Louw – 9th Season
    De Klerk – 3rd Season
    Pollard – 5th Season
    Diyanti – 1st Season
    De Allende – 5th Season
    Kriel – 5th Season
    Kolbe – 1st Season
    Le Roux – 6th Season

    I think the all blacks were a bit inexperience in our last encountered and it showed in the pack and the back 3 where you Jordie Barrett at 15 and Ioni who is only in there 2nd season and the same players that made a few mistakes.

    I think that this bok team has got enough hurt and desire to beat the All Blacks from past season mishaps and poor coaching.

    Lets hope us, the bok fans can get some belief and continuity and finally put to bed the inconsistency that has plagued us over the years

  • Nezo

    Go Bokke!!!!!!!

    Its a final!

    This one is for those who are 15 years or less. They HV not known many Boks victories against the AB. A win will really make them fall in love with the Boks. What an inspiration it will be to them.

  • Dean

    Win or lose, this is a Bok team on the up. They look like a team capable of consistently being 2nd in the rankings and challenging the All Blacks. Our attack and defense has improved so much when you consider that Rassie has barely had 6 months with this team. Game management will be key for this one. I hope we can pull it through but even if we don’t, I still have faith that Rassie is the right guy for the job. Good luck Bokke! Make us proud

    • John Comyn

      Therein lies the secret. We change coaches at the drop of a hat. NZ very seldom change coaches and have a proper succession plan in place. We have had 3 coaches since Hansen last won the WC with the AB’s and he is going to get another WC in charge. Rassie is the right man but must be retained for the long haul.

      • Arch Rautenbach

        That’s why I really hope Rassie see’s out his 6 year contract and other than improving the Boks as head coach, also puts a good succession plan together as director of rugby.

        • Dean

          If he brings in Ackermann, with Swys and Nienaber staying on it will be good for the continuity. Let’s hope that even during the tough times, SARU doesn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Like they did with Jake White and Nick Mallet.

  • Nicky

    You mistake confidence for arrogance.40- 15 to the ABs.

  • Stanley

    and there Crotty was dropped to the bench. Talked too much …????

    • John Comyn

      To be honest, from a Bok perspective, I’d rather have SBW starting than Crotty. Crotty is a very good centre and SBW must be a little rusty after a long break.

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