Boks vs All Blacks: A war of wiles

In the buildup to next week’s Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium, DYLAN JACK previews the battle of the halfbacks.

Handre Pollard vs Beauden Barrett

After a difficult final season with French giants Montpellier, Pollard made a successful return to the Bok No 10 jersey, scoring a try and enjoying a perfect game off the kicking tee in Cape Town to steer South Africa to a series win over Wales.

Pollard has been the first-choice flyhalf in the Erasmus-Nienaber era and, with a couple of games under his belt, the World Cup winner should be back to his best against New Zealand.

Barrett reclaimed the No 10 jersey after returning to New Zealand from a short sabbatical in Japan in 2021. The 30-year-old was one of the few All Blacks who came out of the series defeat by Ireland with credit, as his tactical kicking and eye for an opportunity kept New Zealand in the contest despite things going wrong around him.

With over 100 Test caps to his name, the player who has so often been the Boks’ nemesis in the past will once again be looked upon to spark a dysfunctional backline.

Faf de Klerk vs Aaron Smith

So often a key part of the Springbok tactical game, De Klerk was oddly off-colour during the recent Wales series and lost his place as the starting scrumhalf to rookie Jaden Hendrikse in the third and decisive Test.

The 30-year-old, who recently completed a move to Japan, plays like a Jack Russell terrier at his best and will be expected to hassle the All Blacks on defence and inject some liveliness into the Bok attack.

Smith is the most capped scrumhalf in New Zealand’s history and widely regarded as one of the best passers of a rugby ball in the world. His accuracy with ball in hand and eye for a gap helped the All Blacks thump Ireland in the opening Test of the series, before the Irish got wise to New Zealand’s tactics and adapted in the final two Tests.

The 33-year-old has faced the Springboks 17 times in his career, winning 13 of those Tests. Smith has the ability to unlock even the best defences, so the Springboks will have to be wary of his experience and know-how.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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