Prospect of rare double adds edge

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen
South Africa holds high hopes of a rare double over New Zealand as this year’s Rugby Championship comes to a close tomorrow morning, but it will be wary of being subjected to a ferocious backlash from the world champion.

New Zealand has already retained its Rugby Championship title, but blotted its copybook last month when the Springboks pulled off a surprise 36-34 win in Wellington.

South Africa will now hope to use its home advantage as a springboard for a second straight victory against the All Blacks, a feat last achieved in 2009 and rarely inflicted on the all-conquering New Zealanders.

"There’s an edge about this match-up," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"They beat us in the last game, and that’s why there’s an edge now that probably hasn’t been there for a while."

Loftus Versfeld sold out weeks ago and the thin Highveld air is always a factor in South Africa’s favour at the ground.

Yet the host has lost its previous four tests against the Kiwis at the Pretoria venue, by an average margin of 20 points and with 19 tries conceded.

A sterling defensive performance was the catalyst for the Wellington win as well as last week’s 23-12 success for the Boks over Australia, but their attack needs polishing if they are to stay victorious.

"The All Blacks usually hit hard back after a loss, so we have to be mentally and physically ready for a massive contest," Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said.

"We will have to front up in defence and be clinical when we create chances because the All Blacks punish you for errors and missed opportunities."

New Zealand has picked its strongest available side for the test, and captain Kieran Read returns after sitting out last week’s trip to Argentina.

Prop Owen Franks and halfback Aaron Smith are also restored to the line-up and Jack Goodhue picked ahead of Ryan Crotty, who could be a devastating option off the bench.

"This team hasn’t had a lot of adversity chucked in its face — individually or as a group. So it’s something we have to learn from," Hansen added.

The Springboks have drafted No8 Francois Louw back into the team after an emergency call-up as one of three changes to their line-up. Louw (33) had gone back to play for Bath in the English Premiership after featuring for the Springboks in their opening four matches of the Rugby Championship, but he was recalled after Warren Whiteley suffered a training-ground injury.

Sikhumbuzo Notshe started at No8 in the win over Australia but has been dropped to make way for Louw, whose experience is preferred in order to counter Read’s return. Erasmus again preferred Steven Kitshoff to veteran Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead. Damian de Allende has overcome a shoulder injury and returns to centre in place of Andre Esterhuizen. 


Rugby Championship
Loftus Versfeld, 4.05am tomorrow

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse

New Zealand: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty

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