Location: Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5
Time: 4 p.m. BST
TV Info: Sky Sports 4 from 3 p.m. BST
Live Stream: Watch Live Rugby
You won’t find a more physical encounter on any rugby field than when the two giants of the Southern Hemisphere collide. Add the fact there is a trophy on the line and the stakes could only be higher of this was the World Cup final.
This is guaranteed to be a full-blooded affair. For South Africa, it’s all or nothing. Trailing 23-18 in the table, they must win scoring four tries and prevent New Zealand from registering a single bonus point. For the All Blacks, even a narrow defeat will guarantee they keep the Rugby Championship title for a second year. It’s theirs to lose.
But if there is one stadium the holders would have wished to avoid visiting to seal their victory, it would be Ellis Park. Deep in the heart of this seething city with its steepling stands packed tightly around the field, it has been far from a happy hunting ground for the Kiwis.
The men in black have not won in Johannesburg for nine years and have only recorded three wins here in their history.
It was on the same ground Francois Pienaar lead an entire nation back from the sporting wilderness in 1995 when his Springboks suffocated possibly the greatest All Blacks side to have played the game and win the World Cup.
That day Pienaar reasoned his team had 43 million South Africans behind them. On Saturday, skipper Jean de Villiers can expect the same support.
It’s a mark of All Black respect for their opponents and for the venue that captain Richie McCaw has been rushed back following a knee injury that was originally set to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the competition. Whether he lasts the distance remains to be seen, but the Boks have their own problems.
Lock Flip van der Merwe is suspended following his citing for foul play against Australia, while hooker Bismarck du Plessis will be closely watched by the officials following his red card in the clash between these two in September.
But with Dan Carter out for the All Blacks following the hit on him from du Plessis, the South Africans will look to target replacement fly-half Aaron Cruden’s relative inexperience in such a white-hot atmosphere.
They will need plenty of the ball if they’re to create the four opportunities they need, so the battle at the breakdown will be another crucial area.
Stand by for a bone-shuddering classic on Saturday.
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