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Arlecchino

Preview of Boks v All Blacks

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Bill van Zyl's views.

 

South Africa vs New Zealand

Date: Saturday, October 8

Venue: Kings Park, Durban

Kick-off: SA Time: 17h05, NZDT Sunday Oct 9, 04h05. GMT 15h05.  Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)

Assistant referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)

TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

Bluntly, I am not looking forward to this game much.

A game between the Springboks and the All Blacks has always been the very peak of rugby competition. No other rugby Test anywhere in the world matches the intensity and pride of a Test between these two countries. This is the summit of Mount Everest in rugby terms.

Even when one team, more often the Springboks, is evidently weaker and likely to lose, the passion and ferocity of the game is epic, and the respect between the two teams is palpable. No matter what, these two teams give everything they have in the tank and then some more when they face each other.

That is what Test Match rugby between the Springboks and the All Blacks is all about.

But this season, and with this game that looms in Durban, the entire exercise just seems to be a little less than it should be.

The All Blacks have already won the Rugby Championships for 2016. The Springboks are already looking at a third place finish in the competition. The All Blacks look like the finished product, albeit with some rough edges. The Springboks are all rough edges, some of them curiously soft and others hugely confused

And it all starts with the strange confusion of team selection.

Allister Coetzee, despite all kinds of voices calling for him to chose players in the positions for which they are best known, persists with a flyhalf at fullback. Last week Pat Lambie, a flyhalf, replaced Johan Goosen, a flyhalf, at fullback. This week Pat the flyhalf will play fullback again.

A real fullback, Willie le Roux, is on the bench. Last week Allister Coetzee used him as a replacement right wing.

A scrumhalf, Francois Hougaard will play on the wing, but after two games on the left wing he has been moved to the right wing, while the right winger for the last two tests, Bryan Habana, has been moved back to the left wing. (Why?)

Once again, there is a change at scrum half, with Faf de Klerk returning to replace the injured Rudy Paige. And once again, there is no reserve scrumhalf on the bench.

In fact Coetzee is persisting with his six forward two back bench split, despite this having caused all kinds of strange problems a week ago.

The other change to the starting XV for the Boks sees Damian de Allende recalled from the Western Province whence he was despatched just a week ago. He will now start at 12, with Juan de Jongh shifting out to 13. At least these two are regulars in the positions in which they will start the test on Saturday, and they have played together before!

The rest of the Match-day squad is unchanged from the line-up that defeated the Wallabies last Saturday.

Allister tells us that the bench made a very good impact against the Wallabies last week. He says: "I expect them to do a similar job this coming weekend."

I am not sure that you should not start a test with your strongest possible squad on the field and then make changes off the bench if it is really required. That is the All Black way, and it works.

This game will be the last home Test for Adriaan Strauss, who has announced that he will retire from international rugby at the end of the season. 

The All Blacks have four changes for this final Rugby Championship test of the season.

Coach Hansen recalled Jerome Kaino onto the flank, recovered from his injury, and lock Sam Whitelock is back in the second row after starting off the bench last week.

With the Rugby Championship done and dusted, Hansen has opted to give some other squad members a run replacing Ardie Savea with Matt Todd in the back row, while Waisake Naholo returns on the left wing to give Julian the other Savea a rest.

TJ Perenara remains at halfback with Aaron Smith having been sent home.

Damian McKenzie drops off the bench after making his debut last week, replaced by George Moala.

Teams:

South Africa: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira

 

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Stephen Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Willie le Roux

 

 

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 George Moala. 

Prediction:

Let me get the prediction out of the way. This game will go the way of the All Blacks.

Durban, at sea level, with the probability of rain before, during and after the game. Conditions tailor made for the visitors, it will be like playing at home.

The bumbling toothless Bok game plan that relies on the boot of Morne Steyn to get them into the All Black half of the field to try and milk a couple of penalties, versus the counter attacking skills of Ben Smith, Izzy Dagg and man mountain Waisake Naholo? It is no contest, especially if the South African kicking remains as inaccurate and misconceived as it was a week ago.

Allister Coetzee has abandoned the open running game plan that could just unlock the New Zealanders’ defence. He has learned nothing from the two Argentinean games against New Zealand where their running game managed to find some cracks in the All Black defences.

He has telegraphed his punches by choosing a kicking flyhalf who does nothing else but kick. And then he has gone with six forward reserves and just two backs, again telegraphing his punches. We will see the Boks playing crash/bash/sturm und drang rugby, bashing away at the fringes of the tight phases and bashing away at the fringes of the rucks and mauls. Exciting stuff awaits, if you like watching bulldozers and dump trucks at work.

The Kiwis know how to play against kicking flyhalves. They also know how to defend against constant forward oriented crash/bash rugby. They understand how to absorb the pressure, and they will certainly play their usual game by taking the ball away from the contact point as much as possible.

It will be modern open rugby against a game plan conceived in the middle ages.

The two packs are pretty even, perhaps the Boks have the slightest of edges in the scrums, and should dominate the lineouts, but in broken play and with the ball in hand the All Black pack is certainly superior. Both lots of forwards will tackle, all day long, if necessary.

At the back, I am afraid the Boks will be somewhat outclassed. Not that the individual players are necessarily all weaker, it is just that they have been chopped and changed and chopped again, with players being shoved into unfamiliar positions and then switched again.

There is no continuity of selection or strategy in the backs, and that is where the All Blacks are likely to tear South Africa apart. The All Blacks will move the ball away from contact, focus on the close-in offloads and will certainly do their best to create space for their strike runners to pounce. The unsettled look of the Bok backline will give them cause for confidence!

If I go with logic instead of heart, the All Blacks will take everything the Boks throw at them, and then counter punch late in the game. That is the way they have beaten the Boks very time in the last couple of years.

The All Blacks will win in Durban

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I don't think AC ever had an open running game plan. Instead he tried to force two round pegs into a kicking game plan.

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