All Blacks beware: Springboks returning to happy hunting ground in Wellington
There is no certainty over the outcome of this weekend’s All Blacks-Springboks test in Wellington.
That is not just because the likes of Handre Pollard and Malcolm Marx are about to slot back into the visitors’ ranks, or that there was a lack of cohesion and accuracy in the All Blacks’ defeat of the Pumas in BA.
History suggests that, of all the New Zealand cities, the Springboks perform best in the capital, whether it was at the good old Athletic Park or, since 2002, at Westpac Stadium.
Certainly, Wellington holds no fear for the Boks, compared to, say, Auckland. Not since Danie Craven’s class of 1937, known in some circles as the greatest team to ever leave New Zealand shores, have they lowered the All Blacks at the Garden of Eden.
I wasn’t there, but in 1921, on a dreadful capital day, by all accounts, the two teams fought to a 0-0 stalemate, the first of just two scoreless draws in New Zealand test match history. That also squared the series at 1-1.
In 1937, the All Blacks won the first test 13-7 in Wellington but lost the rubber 2-1, their sole series loss to the Boks on Kiwi shores.
In 1956, the tour to end all tours, the only joy the tourists found in the test series came in the second test in Wellington, which they won 8-3 off the back of tries to flanker Daan Retief and lock ‘Salty’ du Rand. Funnily enough, just 18 days later, the Boks came a cropper at the hands of New Zealand Universities. But the test defeat forced the All Blacks selectors to overhaul their tactics and personnel, introducing the likes of Don Clarke and Kevin Skinner, among others.
In 1965, the All Blacks squeaked home 6-3 via tries to Bill Birtwistle and Kel Tremain.
A 16-year hiatus was broken on the fractured 1981 tour. The under siege Boks, growing tight as a squad due to often having to sleep at venues due to security concerns, tipped over the All Blacks 24-12. The home side was at sixes and sevens with its selections, but that should not detract from the fact that the Boks pack and the unerring boot of Naas Botha, who collected 20 points, was on top throughout. Wing Gerrie Germishuys scored the match’s only try.
The 1994 Boks may have stolen the win at Athletic Park had it not been for the brilliance of Zinzan Brooke in the infamous Johan Le Roux biting match. The final score read 13-9.
You could argue that the 1998 All Blacks would have beaten the Boks on the same ground if Carlos Spencer had not left his kicking boots in the decrepit old changing rooms. You could argue that, but the Boks, under the canny coaching of Nick Mallett, were the better side and were well on the way to winning the Tri Nations after this 13-3 victory which featured a superbly executed scrum move, finished by wing Pieter Rossouw.
There was little further cause for Springbok celebration in Wellington until 2018 when the Boks, unexpectedly and shockingly to many New Zealanders, engineered a remarkable 36-34 triumph, despite scoring less tries than the All Blacks. They took their chances and the home side had a couple of costly brain explosions, notably from Jordie Barrett. His brother Beauden was in the gun for converting just two of the six All Blacks tries.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus know his history. He knows his side can put the wind up the All Blacks, in this city and at this ground.
Let the All Blacks beware.
Watch – Michael Chieka fronts media in Brisbane:
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