The Springboks need to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand on Saturday to keep their Rugby Championship title dreams alive, writes JON CARDINELLI.
How different the Rugby Championship log would read had the Boks edged the Wallabies in Perth.
But for one missed kick to touch by Morné Steyn, as well as an abjectly poor decision by referee George Clancy, the Boks would still lead the table. They would be at 12 log points and in pole position by virtue of the fact that they’d won all three of their matches.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Clancy’s shocking decision to yellow card Bryan Habana in the 66th minute had a big impact in this past Saturday’s Test in Perth, as did Steyn’s failure to kick a penalty to touch. The Boks have dropped their first game in this Rugby Championship campaign, and find themselves in a do-or-die situation heading into the next game in Wellington.
Before the tournament commenced, I wrote that the Boks needed to put the All Blacks under pressure. I said that the Boks needed 14 log points from their first three matches against Argentina (five points home and away) and Australia, if they were going to keep the New Zealanders on their toes.
And yet, after three games, the Boks sit on nine log points, having recorded two narrow wins over the Pumas, and an even narrower loss to the Wallabies. They now have to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand if they are to have any say in this year’s tournament.
It’s worth mentioning again that the Boks have been done no favours by the tournament schedule. They are the only one of three big sides who have been forced to tour three countries in succession, and travel over 20 time zones in the space of a month.
The odds have always been against them winning the most difficult game of the tour, which is also the third and final of the sojourn, against New Zealand. The Boks have won only three games in this country in the professional era, and none on the back of a demanding tour such as this.
But this is what they will need to do if they intend to win the 2014 Rugby Championship. Another loss would be devastating to their current campaign.
The All Blacks are now in first position on the tournament table with 12 points. The Boks are second with nine points. The coming clash in the New Zealand capital is thus crucial. Another win, and the All Blacks could break clear by as many as eight log points. But if the Boks scrap to a win, they will regain pole position and ensure that the competition is decided in the final fixture at Ellis Park on 4 October.
Another All Blacks win in Wellington and the competition is all but over. The All Blacks scored four tries against Argentina this past Saturday, and will be expected to bag the full haul of points when they travel to Buenos Aires later this month. If this is achieved on the back of a win against South Africa in Wellington, the All Blacks could go into that final game in Johannesburg with 21 or 22 log points.
The Boks missed an opportunity in Perth. If they still want to win the title, they must make their chance count in Wellington.
It will be easier said than done. The Boks have only won three times in New Zealand in the past 16 years. They last beat the All Blacks in Wellington in 1998.
The Bok team to play the All Blacks will be announced on Wednesday.
Photo: Sandra Mu/Getty Images