Five things the Boks need to do to break the All Blacks' grip
The All Blacks have just about taken ownership of the Rugby Championship after winning it five times since 2012. Here are five things the Springboks need to go their way.
Only the best will do
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is on a Rugby World Cup mission. He is desperate to blood a substantial number of players and build capacity before next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Erasmus was generous in spreading game time in his squad in the June tests. The Rugby Championship, however, is no school playground. Even Argentina, especially now that they are coached by Mario Ledesma, will bully you if you give them a chance.
Fortunately the fixture list will help Erasmus as the team builds up to their more pressing engagements. The Boks face Los Pumas in Durban and then in Mendoza, before they travel to Brisbane to face the Wallabies. By the time they breeze into Wellington to face the All Blacks, Erasmus had better have his best match day unit on board.
They can potentially afford to lose the almost unwinnable match in Wellington. They will ,however, have to win all their other matches.
The last time the Boks played the All Blacks at Loftus they lost 45-26 in 2006. On their previous visit to Pretoria the All Blacks may as well have stormed the Union Buildings. They laid siege to the Bok tryline, winning 52-16 in 2003. Clearly they like it in the capital.
Perhaps the best way to avoid such national embarrassment (and we say this in jest) is to spring a surprise on the All Blacks by moving the game at the eleventh hour to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. On the Boks’ only visit to that stadium they actually beat the All Blacks 21-20 in 2006 (which, incidentally, saved former Bok coach Jake White from getting the axe).
Tie me Kiwi down, sport
In order to win the Rugby Championship the Boks may also require some help from the Aussies, although they’ve been wholly unreliable in that department. Australia did beat the All Blacks in their last meeting in Brisbane last year, but they’ve had a torrid time against their trans-Tasman neighbours over the last, well, many years. In their last 20 clashes the All Blacks have won 15 games, while two ended in a draw.
The Boks will have to pin their hopes on the Wallabies springing a surprise against the All Blacks in Sydney, because you are more likely see a kiwi fly, than witnessing an Australia win in Auckland. The All Blacks have been invincible since 1994, but maybe South African referee Jaco Peyper can do the Boks a favour in Sydney.
The Wallabies doing the double over the All Blacks is extremely remote. The last time they earned back to back wins over the All Blacks, the Twin Towers still formed part of New York’s skyline. In August 2001 they beat the All Blacks in Wellington and Dunedin (the last time they beat the All Blacks in New Zealand), followed by victory in Sydney at the start of the following month. Ten days later the Twin Towers tumbled.
If the Wallabies can’t beat the All Blacks maybe Argentina can… or maybe not. After 26 clashes Los Pumas are yet to beat the All Blacks. The closest they came was a draw in Buenos Aires in 1985 when their legendary flyhalf Hugo Porta pulled a rabbit or two out of the hat.
To be fair, Argentina are more likely to invade and then hang on to the Malvinas, than Los Pumas beating Steve Hansen’s team. So rule that one out.
With winning in Wellington almost in the realm of the impossible, the Springboks will have to get away wins in Mendoza and Brisbane.
When they arrive at the foothills of the Andes, Erasmus will still be mixing and matching with his team selections, but he cannot afford to be too adventurous. The Boks won convincingly enough (41-23) in Argentina last year, but a good chunk of the team that did duty that day will be missing for the start of the Rugby Championship. Coenie Oosthuizen (injured), Jaco Kriel (injured, playing abroad), Uzair Cassiem (playing abroad), Francois Hougaard (playing abroad), Raymond Rhule (dropped), Jan Serfontein (injured, playing abroad), Andries Coetzee (dropped), Courtnall Skosan (dropped) and Damian de Allende (injured) are all missing.
The Springboks’ last two clashes against the Wallabies ended in a stalemate. The Wallabies were lucky to earn a draw in Perth against Allister Coetzee’s team last year. If they can’t do better than a draw against Coetzee’s team, one might argue how on earth will they topple the Boks under Erasmus? Or so we think.