Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, has announced his team for Saturday's Tri-Nations opening game against the New-Zealand All Blacks in Wellington. This will be the first test for the new Springbok coach away from home this year and he seems to be somewhat confident.
"I have such a wonderful bunch of guys to choose from and there is pressure on all of them to perform. But even if you're playing a game on the moon, if you have the skills and you play well, you will win," De Villiers said after announcing the run-on team and his bench for Saturday's game. This may be true, but if the game were played there it would be an away game for the Mighty All Blacks as well.
The Springboks have become more and more averse to travelling in the past few years under Jake White. Although they won the World Cup in France they did not play the hosts or New-Zealand during that tournament, a fact that many people have pointed out. Many people who hail from the "land of the long white cloud" especially. While they are reciting their war-cry, the haka, on Saturday the All Blacks will know that they have been unbeaten in New-Zealand in their last 30 games. Which brings me back to Div's "moon-theory". All Springbok supporters will hope that he has found the magic tour ingredient to give the Springboks that extra spark they lack so often away from sunny South Africa.
When John Smit, the South African captain, landed in New-Zealand earlier this week and eluded to how the Springboks have "botched" their previous opportunities to beat the New Zealand national team at home. The last time the Springboks were able to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand was in 1998. One year ago the All Blacks beat the Boks 33 - 6 in Christchurch.
Springboks can win if:
- They get their scrum working well - In the past three matches, and most disturbingly against Italy, the Springbok scrum was vulnerable. Div might regret leaving BJ Botha at home
- They keep the ball in the breakdown - The kiwis love turnover ball. Even with no Richie McCaw just keeping the ball away from So'oialo, Kaino and Thomson or Sione Lauaki, if he comes onto the field, will be crucial for a Springbok win
- They can keep their defence intact - From broken play the All Blacks are merciless and have made many defensive coaches and the execution of their ideas look silly
The All Blacks can win if:
- They ask for a scrum every now-and-then - Especially if the field is wet. I don't see the Boks holding out in the scrums for 80 minutes. I think we'll see a tight head or two going New Zealand's way on a Springbok put-in
- They get quick ball - The Bok pack will be less mobile and 11, 13, 14 and 15 for South Africa don't turn and chase attackers well
- They can shock the Springboks with two or three tries in the first 30 minutes - South African teams rarely chase a game successfully and tend to make stupid mistakes when they know they have to go and score and score more than once to win a game
All Black Team: 15-Malili Muliaina, 14-Rudi Wulf,13-Conrad Smith,12-Ma'a Nonu,11-Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Andrew Ellis, 8-Jerome Kaino, 7-Rodney So'oialo, 6-Adam Thomson, 5-Ali Williams, 4-Brad Thorn, 3-Greg Somerville, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Anthony Boric, Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Sione Lauaki, Jimmy Cowan, Leon MacDonald, Stephen Donald
Springbok Team: 15-Conrad Jantjes, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-Adrian Jacobs, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Butch James, 9-Enrico Januarie, 8-Joe van Niekerk, 7-Juan Smith, 6-Schalk Burger, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Bakkies Botha, 3-CJ van der Linde, 2-John Smit, 1-Gurthro Steenkamp
Reserves: Bismarck du Plessis, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Luke Watson, Bolla Conradie, Francois Steyn, Percy Montgomery
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 5 June 2008 7:35 PM (Local Time)
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Head-to-Head: Played 72, All Blacks 42, Springboks 29, Drawn 3
In Wellington: Played 9, All Blacks 5, Springboks 3, Drawn 1
Last meeting: July 14 2007: All Blacks defeated Springboks 33-6 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch