Boks tread carefully into North Harbour‚ wary of playing up All Blacks frailties
In one of the foyers at Eden Park‚ a painting of South Africa’s 17-6 win at the arena just under 80 years ago speaks of a storied rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand.
It remains the last time the Boks claimed a win at New Zealand’s rugby cathedral.
The 1937 series is an important one for it was the last time South Africa won a test series in New Zealand.
With such overbearing history‚ it is understandable why the Boks are treading carefully in regards to Saturday’s date against the All Blacks at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
It will be the first visit the All Blacks have made to the North Shore in 12 years‚ and the Boks were more recent visitors during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks‚ though‚ will be nothing like the Namibians and the Samoans the Springboks clinically dealt with.
The Boks are riding a medium-sized wave having won five and drawn one of their matches this year.
The All Blacks drew 1-all against the British and Irish Lion and saw off Australia and Argentina in a set of three matches.
The Bok coaching staff and player group are aware of the task at hand.
They were the All Blacks’ doormats last year as Steve Hansen’s side barrelled in 98 points and 15 tries in the two matches in Christchurch and Durban.
They have been quietly optimistic about their chances and the defensive vulnerabilities that have surrounded the All Blacks. True to their nature‚ the All Blacks have outscored their opponents but have conceded in their own right.
The Boks have prioritised defence and even though they’re far from a finished product‚ they’ve been able to turn their season around.
The Boks will have to make do without scrumhalf Ross Cronje‚ who pulled out with a stomach bug but they have maintained a modicum of stability.
Coach Allister Coetzee made three changes to the side that drew against Australia in Perth.
Hansen made eight changes from the lineup that beat Argentina in New Plymouth. Despite the All Blacks’ sole loss to the British and Irish Lions this year‚ Hansen said they were having an awkward season‚ which may not bode too well for the Boks.
However‚ such is the faith Hansen has in their system‚ he picked Kane Games to start ahead of the experienced Wyatt Crockett. With the set-pieces set to become part of the game’s defining points‚ Hansen has taken a gamble that he hopes will pay off.
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie‚ 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder‚ 13 Ryan Crotty‚ 12 Sonny Bill Williams‚ 11 Rieko Ioane‚ 10 Beauden Barrett‚ 9 Aaron Smith; 8 Kieran Read (c)‚ 7 Sam Cane‚ 6 Liam Squire‚ 5 Sam Whitelock‚ 4 Brodie Retallick‚ 3 Nepo Laulala‚ 2 Dane Coles‚ 1 Kane Hames. Reserves: 16 Codie Taylor‚ 17 Wyatt Crockett‚ 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi‚ 19 Scott Barrett‚ 20 Ardie Savea‚ 21 TJ Perenara‚ 22 Lima Sopoaga‚ 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee‚ 14 Raymond Rhule‚ 13 Jesse Kriel‚ 12 Jan Serfontein‚ 11 Courtnall Skosan‚ 10 Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Francois Hougaard‚ 8 Uzair Cassiem‚ 7 Jean-luc du Preez‚ 6 Siya Kolisi‚ 5 Franco Mostert‚ 4 Eben Etzebeth ©‚ 3 Ruan Dreyer‚ 2 Malcolm Marx‚ 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: 16 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 17 Steven Kitshoff‚ 18 Trevor Nyakane‚ 19 Lood de Jager‚ 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit 21 Rudy Paige‚ 22 Handre Pollard‚ 23 Damian de Allende.
Match official: Nigel Owens (Wales)
First Assistant: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Second Assistant: Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)