Powerful Bok pack holds key to beating All Blacks
If SA’s forwards are on top of their game, it should be a home win
It is something of a cliché to say forwards win rugby matches, but when it comes to Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash between SA and New Zealand, it’s hard to avoid as it’s so clear what the hosts need to do.
The Boks will need to cut off the possession supply at source, in the same way an invading force would look to cut off an enemy nation’s energy source in a time of war.
And if the forwards are on top of their game, it is hard to see anything other than a home win.
Looking at the All Blacks team for the Mbombela Stadium game, what is obvious is that the visiting team’s threats are from No 8 to 15.
Ardie Savea has been around the block a bit as a member of the All Blacks starting team, and Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett have played more than 100 games each, many of them as the halfback pairing.
We know what Will Jordan can do on the wing if given the opportunity, Rieko Ioane is always dangerous with ball in hand, and the man who returned to the New Zealand team for the first time in two years this week, Caleb Clarke, is built like a monster.
The All Blacks left-wing certainly dwarfs the man who will be directly opposite him, Kurt-Lee Arendse, when it comes to physical stature.
With Jordie Barrett always influential from the back for the visitors, and Richie Mo’unga set to bring his skills from the bench later in the game, the All Blacks backline threats aren’t to be scoffed at.
But for backs to be in a game at all, they have to have ball to play with, and that’s where the focus of the Boks will be on Saturday.
With Brodie Retallick out injured, Codie Taylor also out and several top props watching from back home, the All Blacks pack don’t strike the fear, at least on paper, they normally do.
Arrayed against the All Blacks on Saturday is one of the most decorated and experienced Bok packs of all time.
Malcolm Marx is back to the form that saw him rated by many as the best hooker in the world a few years ago, and it’s not just this being his landmark 50th appearance in the Bok jersey that makes it right that he starts.
Alongside him are Frans Malherbe, who won a World Cup, and Trevor Nyakane, who missed out on the World Cup final only because he was injured, and was a pivotal player in swinging the battle the Bok way against the British and Irish Lions in 2021.
Steven Kitshoff is an experienced World Cup winner on the bench, and alongside him is his former franchise teammate Bongi Mbonambi, who has also won a World Cup and recently celebrated his 50th Test cap.
Behind the starting front row is new Bok centurion in caps, Eben Etzebeth, and his equally experienced and physically imposing second-row partner Lood de Jager, with Salmaan Moerat and Franco Mostert providing quality backup.
When you stack up what the Boks have in this crucial area of the game against what the All Blacks have, you get an understanding of why on this rare occasion in the post-isolation era it is the Boks who start as clear favourites.
SA: Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Willie le Roux.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Bower. Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea. - SuperSport.com
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