The title-deciding result in La Plata has improved the Springboks’ chances of beating the All Blacks in the final game of the tournament, writes JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
The Boks won’t be chasing a four-try bonus point this coming weekend. They won’t be looking to beat the All Blacks by a margin of 20-plus, and they won’t be looking to deny the New Zealanders a consolatory bonus point. The Boks will be looking for any sort of win, even if it’s 3-0.
The recent result in Buenos Aires has simplified the Boks’ task. The All Blacks clinched the Rugby Championship title this past Saturday when they thumped Argentina, and what this means is that we won’t head into the next game at Ellis Park talking about what the Boks need to do to overtake New Zealand at the top of the log.
That’s right, no talk of four-try bonus points or points differentials. No talk of the Boks gambling with an all-or-nothing approach. The No 1 team in the world will face off against No 2, and while there is no silverware up for grabs, there's plenty to gain in the context of next year’s World Cup.
The Boks haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 2011. Under Heyneke Meyer, they’ve lost five out of five. At the start of the 2014 season, Meyer said that the Boks needed to break the trend sooner rather than later.
I’ve spoken to several players and coaches within the Bok set-up this past week, and what’s clear is that the South Africans are more desperate than ever to tick this box. Any win against New Zealand will do, and with this in mind, perhaps it’s a good thing that all that will be required this coming Saturday is victory.
The Boks won’t need to take as many chances as they did in the corresponding fixture at Ellis Park last year. On that occasion, they were chasing a win, a four-try bonus point, a substantial winning margin, and looking to limit the All Blacks to three tries. It was a tough ask for a team who hasn’t scored any sort of win against New Zealand since 2011.
Indeed, it will be hard enough just to beat the All Blacks this coming Saturday. They weren’t at their best in the recent clash in Buenos Aires, but they still put four tries past Argentina. They’ve lost just one match since the start of the 2011 World Cup. They are the undisputed champions of world rugby, and the best side of the modern era.
And they won’t take this coming clash lightly. The All Blacks found themselves in a similar position back in 2012 when they had already clinched the Rugby Championship title before arriving in South Africa for the final game of the tournament. Many felt they would lack motivation, and yet, they proceeded to hammer the Boks 32-16 at Soccer City via an inspired second-half display.
They are the most skilled side in the world, and the fittest. Meyer said after the Boks’ recent win against the Wallabies that his own side had taken significant strides in this department. That will, however, be put to the test when the Boks run a race against the All Blacks on the highveld.
The Boks need to beat the All Blacks before the 2015 World Cup. While there will be disappointment that there's nothing to play for this week in terms of silverware, it’s a good thing that the Boks can simply focus on the goal of winning the game.
This result won’t change the fact that the All Blacks are the best side on the planet. What it will do for the Boks is signify progress, and inspire belief that a win against the All Blacks will be possible at next year’s World Cup.
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