• ‘All Blacks are beatable’

    Francois Louw says the Springboks can’t afford to have a defeatist mind-set ahead of Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks at Kings Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.

    New Zealand’s resounding victory over Argentina this past weekend marked their fifth successive bonus-point win in the Rugby Championship. Overall, it was the All Blacks’ 16th win on the trot, now just two away from the all-time record.

    Such an emphatic run of results has added to a prevailing sense that this current All Blacks side remains virtually unstoppable as they continuously appear to be widening the gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack in world rugby.

    It’s a perception that is certainly backed up by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats. Over the first five rounds of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks have scored 29 tries (more than all three other teams combined), while they are top-ranked for clean breaks (83), metres made (2,958) and defenders beaten (142).

    Beyond their undeniable superiority in the attacking stats, the All Blacks are also top-ranked for tackle success (89.3%) and scrum success (93%), while their lineout has functioned efficiently, with a 91.8% success rate.

    So, it’s for good reason that the All Blacks will be regarded as overwhelming favourites to not only emerge victorious at Kings Park this Saturday, but to do so quite comfortably, with the Kiwis having already clinched a 28-point win over the Boks earlier this season.

    Understandably, though, Louw moved to insist at a press conference in Durban that anything was possible on the day.

    ‘The All Blacks may be in contention for that winning record, but for us, it’s another crucial All Blacks Test at home. It’s going to be a massive challenge, but it’s also a big opportunity, and I think they are beatable, definitely. At the end of the day, we can’t go into this game thinking they’re unbeatable and just trying to survive. We have to formulate and execute our game plan well.’

    In this regard, Allister Coetzee said it was simply non-negotiable that the Boks performed consistently across key areas of the game for the full 80 minutes on Saturday.

    ‘You simply have to fire in all departments if you want to have any success against the All Blacks. They are a team that are so good at capitalising on any soft moments from the opposition, and we saw how they did that against Argentina when they scored three quick tries this past weekend.

    ‘And then in the last 20 minutes of a match, they always have that self-belief that they are fitter than any other side, and will finish strong. So we need to be really consistent in what we do, look after the ball and build continuity. We have to be accurate and ensure we give them nothing on a platter.’

    Despite the fact that the Boks have battled to perform consistently over the first five rounds of the Rugby Championship, Louw suggested that Saturday’s winning result over the Wallabies had provided the team with renewed belief that they were beginning to ‘find their groove’.

    ‘I think the mental side of Test rugby is hugely important, but you can’t just expect to think positive and come away with the win. You have to dig deep, and find what motivates you to perform for the full 80 minutes.

    ‘The thing is, when it comes to the All Blacks, there’s no South African player who will be found wanting for motivation. From the moment they perform the haka, it puts you in a mind-set where you’re ready for battle. This week we’re determined to work on what we need to, and to ensure we're emotionally and mentally in the right state of mind.’

    Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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    Craig Lewis