The Springboks will be targeting back-to-back wins over the All Blacks for the first time since 2009 when they meet their traditional foes at Loftus this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Pretoria.
The Rugby Championship winners and runners-up have already been confirmed. No matter what happens in Pretoria this Saturday, the All Blacks and Boks will finish at No 1 and No 2 respectively.
That’s not to say there won’t be plenty at stake when these two sides face off once again. The context of this clash has been changed dramatically as a result of the Boks’ famous win in Wellington, while it’s a result that kept the title challenge alive for just a little longer than had been widely expected.
Since then, the Boks have claimed a largely satisfactory win over the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth, and the All Blacks comfortably overcame Argentina in Buenos Aires.
However, both matches left you with a sense that each team has far more to offer. In a way, it feels as if a pressure cooker is once again building to boiling point when the Boks and All Blacks head into battle this Saturday.
Don’t be surprised if the All Blacks deliver their revered Kapa O Pango haka before kick-off. Don’t be surprised if there is a bit of extra aggression and animosity between the teams.
After this Saturday’s encounter, the two old rivals will meet just once more before facing each other in the pool stage of the 2019 World Cup.
The Boks readily admitted in Port Elizabeth last week that the Wellington win had served as a significant morale-booster. That belief would increase exponentially should they manage to pull off rare consecutive victories over the All Blacks.
It’s a feat a vastly experienced Springbok side last managed nearly a decade ago. Following a memorable series triumph over the British & Irish Lions in 2009, the Boks kicked off the Tri-Nations with a 28-19 win over the All Blacks in Bloemfontein, before holding out for a 32-29 triumph in Hamilton later that season.
There has been plenty of pain since then. In fact, the Boks lost 15 of their next 17 matches against the All Blacks before the recent win in Wellington.
Claiming successive victories over New Zealand would have been almost unthinkable at the start of this season, and while the All Blacks will remain favourites on Saturday, the Boks should be quietly confident.
Despite making several changes to their side for last Saturday’s clash against the Wallabies, the Boks comfortably cruised to an 11-point win after finally enjoying the better of the early exchanges to surge into a 14-0 lead.
This week, the Boks are expected to be boosted by the availability of Damian de Allende, who has made a speedy recovery from a shoulder injury, while S’bu Nkosi could also come into contention after working his way back from an ankle ailment.
At last week’s team announcement, Rassie Erasmus said they hoped to have Warren Whiteley available after a groin injury ruled him out of the Wallabies clash, while powerful prop Vincent Koch could also come into the reckoning after spending some time with the team.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks will welcome back stalwarts Kieran Read and Owen Franks, who were rested for the trip to Argentina.
On Sunday, the Boks made the trip from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria, and will be quickly setting their sights on some more history that could be made in front of a capacity crowd at Loftus.
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