The 100th Test match between the Springboks and the All Black is upon is and while the form is with the New Zealanders, Siya Kolisi’s men are not world champions for nothing and they will be also hoping they can recapture the fighting spirit that overcame the British and Irish Lions. While rugby is a team sport, there are individuals that can shape the outcome and Mike Greenaway looks at five key match-ups that will influence this match.
Handre Pollard v Beaudon Barrett
The Springbok flyhalf has not been enjoying the best of form of late while Barrett is revelling in being restored to the No 10 jersey in the absence of Richie Mo’unga. The latter is on paternity leave and Barrett, who was either at fullback or on the bench when Mo’unga was starting, has had a good run of games in his old position and has made the most of it. The Boks need Pollard to regain his confidence and stamp his authority on the match.
Faf de Klerk v TJ Perenara
De Klerk is vital to the Boks’ game plan and when he is out of step the team performance suffers because so much depends on how he regulates play from the base of the scrum or ruck. Like Pollard, De Klerk has been erratic and his discipline has also been questionable. He needs to snap out of it and play the way he did when Eddie Jones described as an “irritating little chain saw.”Aaron Smith is another All Black at home with a new born baby and in his place Perenara is enjoying a new lease on life.
Duane Vermeulen v Luke Jacobson
If ever the Boks need The Great Duane to step up and deliver it is in this match. For so long the team’s talisman, Vermeulen is on his way back from the injury that kept him out of the Lions series and at age 35, he understandably has not hit the ground running. But today he must be Thor again if his team is to have a good chance of winning. Opposite him, the multi-skilled Jacobson is at a different juncture in his career. At 24, the Chiefs No 8 is just starting to gain ground in international rugby, earning is 10th cap in this match.
Eben Etzebeth v Brodie Retallick
Which of these would you least prefer to meet late at night in a blind alley? And if they met each other, who would prevail? Well they meet each in this match, for all the world to see, and how much each gets to enforce himself will determine the tone of the physicality of their respective packs. By his own raucous standards, Etezbeth was quiet against the Wallabies and the Bok pack urgently needs him to fire them up for the big one.
Siya Kolisi v Ardie Savea
The clash of the captains and opposing flankers will be fascinating, especially from a South African point of view. I thought Kolisi was excellent in the series against the British and Irish Lions, but not so good against the Australians. By how own admission he does not recognise the player that inspired the Boks to beat the Lions. Savea is in the form of his life at 27 and with the experience of 54 caps for the All Blacks. If Kolisi can regain his form and keep Savea quiet, the rest of the Springbok team will follow him.