Pride completely at stake for Springboks against All Blacks


Just as the Springboks have not had it difficult enough, they now face their sternest threat of the season yet, when they play the World Champion All Blacks in the AMI Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday morning (SA time).

New Zealand is so far unbeaten and seemingly a very long way from losing in this year’s Rugby Championship, as they have up to this point, won three out of three matches, with each victory being by more than 20 points.

South Africa, on the other hand, have displayed unconvincing and dissatisfactory performances thus far after just scraping past Argentina at home in Nelspruit, before losing the following week against the same opposition in Salta by two points and then losing again to a struggling Australian outfit in Brisbane last week. The Springboks have already been knocked to their knees due to their lacklustre performances so far, but now face up against their biggest threat yet – which does not pose for keen anticipation amongst South African fans.

The All Blacks have just been crowned World Champions for the second time in a row after winning the the World Cup in England last year and are currently on a 14-match winning streak after last losing 27-19 to Australia soon before the global tournament. Their winning momentum appears to exponentially bulldoze any opposition that crosses their path and South Africa will now be their next targets come Saturday.

Fortunately for the Springboks, however, the traditional rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa always tends to bring out the best in the men in green and gold with the last four tests between the two nations being within seven points. Irrespective of how the Springboks fair against other opposition, they seemingly often illuminate against the All Blacks. Last year at the World Cup, South Africa suffered their biggest ever upset defeat against Japan in the opening round, but still went on to qualify for the semi-finals, where they took New Zealand to within two points.

For the Springboks to be competitive on Saturday, they need to dig deep and find character that was not yet shown this year, while abiding to a well-structured game plan. South Africa needs to focus on their strengths and they need to find a way to alleviate the threats of All Black fly half, Beauden Barrett, to prevent themselves from stepping onto the back foot throughout the match. They also cannot afford to give away possession with mindless and directionless kicks, which was one of the hindering factors that had cost them last week against Australia.

New Zealand are experts at capitalizing on opportunities and on their oppositions’ mistakes, so unforced errors also need to be kept to a bare minimum, while ball-retention for South Africa needs to be on-point. What will work to the Springboks’ favour will be to rattle the men in black early on, to gain that front-foot momentum and heed ascendency as the match progresses.

Ultimately, South Africa needs a near-perfect performance just to be competitive against this seemingly invincible All Black side, but it is not impossible. Pride is completely at stake and exactly what the Springboks need right now is to have a convincing performance against the world’s best to move forward in a positive limelight.

Throughout history, South Africa and New Zealand have played each other 91 times, with the All Blacks winning 53 of those and the Springboks winning 35, while three were drawn.

Image: Springbok centre, Jesse Kriel, having a run against the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final last year.