All Blacks looks to heap woe on Springboks
August 19, 2011
Stand-in skipper Victor Matfield will attempt to inspire a turnaround in fortunes for the Springboks © Getty Images
South Africa will look to breathe some life into their Rugby World Cup preparations against old foes New Zealand in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Springboks are riding a run of three straight defeats in this year's Tri-Nations having seen their second string come up some way short against Australia and New Zealand on their overseas tour before a much strong line-up were beaten by the Wallabies on home soil last weekend. In contrast the All Blacks are unbeaten having crushed the Boks in Wellington before putting Australia in their place in Auckland.
South Africa require a return to form and quickly in what is their last outing before they kick off their World Cup campaign against Wales in Wellington on September 11. The squad is under increasing pressure and unless their big names hit their straps at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium they are in danger of beginning their World Cup defence out of form and stripped of confidence.
That is something that New Zealand are not short of having opted to rest many of their front line stars from this contest, well aware of the physical demands of the sport's showpiece event, and they know defeat here will still leave the Tri-Nations crown within reach. An 'under-strength' All Blacks line-up may offer hope to the Boks but they will be more worried about finding their own form before worrying about that of their rivals.
South Africa - Player to Watch: If the Springboks are going to find an extra couple of gears then fly-half Morne Steyn will need to set the tone. The Bulls playmaker also needs a big performance to make the No.10 shirt his own for the World Cup.
South Africa - Team News: The Boks have made five changes in the wake of their reverse to Australia last weekend. Steyn is recalled at fly-half at the expense of Butch James while back-row forward Willem Alberts, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and loose-head prop Gurthro Steenkamp all come back into the side to replace Danie Rossouw, John Smit and Tendai Mtawarira respectively. In the other change, versatile back Pat Lambie will start at fullback in place of the injured Frans Steyn.
New Zealand - Player to Watch: Fly-half Colin Slade has the ability to quash all those doubts about his ability to deputise for Dan Carter in the All Blacks' No.10 shirt but can he deliver in just his second start?
New Zealand - Team News: Skipper and openside flanker Richie McCaw is being rested, as is fly-half Dan Carter, with Adam Thomson and Colin Slade named in their place. Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu will captain the team for the second time in a Test. Jimmy Cowan is back at halfback, while in the forwards Liam Messam is at No.8, Sam Whitelock returns to lock alongside Ali Williams and John Afoa returns from his eye socket injury at tight-head prop.
Key Battle: South Africa need big performances from some of their big names including the second row duo of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield who must master their Kiwi rivals, Sam Whitelock and Ali Williams, and provide on-field leadership if the Boks are to stop the rot.
Trivia: This is the first game the Springboks have played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that played host to the British & Irish Lions' 20-8 victory over the Southern Kings during their 2009 tour of South Africa.
Stats: Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will appear in their sixteenth Test together as brothers, eight more Tests than Carel and Michael du Plessis between 1984 and 1989.
"It's still the ultimate test for the Springboks, because New Zealand are almost always the best in the world, the team you measure yourself against."
"I think it's huge for them, this is the one they need to win or the pressure on them is just going to increase."
Prediction: South Africa are up against it and there can be no excuses this time around. Expect that pressure to trigger a return to form of sorts and a narrow victory against an untried but hungry-to-impress All Blacks line-up.
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