Matches between the All Blacks and the Springboks are always momentous, but this weekend’s match in Wellington is surely the biggest game they have played against one another since the 2015 World Cup semi-final.
Both sides will face each other for the last time this weekend before they meet in their opening match of the World Cup pool stages in September.
Head coaches Steve Hansen and Rassie Erasmus have had different approaches to this match though. Hansen has downplayed the importance of this fixture, while Erasmus has suggested that the side that wins will come away with a psychological edge. It looks as though there is a number of people on Twitter that agree with the former.
There is added importance to this fixture as well, as it sees a repeat of the Springboks’ victory in Wellington last year. Hansen has equally been coy in saying that this is not a revenge mission for the All Blacks, but it must be in the back of many players’ minds.
As well as their differing outlook to the match, the coaches have also had a different approach in terms of squad selection. Although it is impossible to ever have a weak All Blacks side, Hansen is trying new things out. He is playing Beauden Barrett at fullback for the first time since 2013, allowing Richie Mo’unga to start at fly-half. Equally, he has rested some key players such as Ardie Savea and Sam Cane, who are likely to be in the squad which face the Springboks at the World Cup, as well as dropping Aaron Smith to the bench.
On the other hand, Erasmus has named as strong a squad as he can, after resting the bulk of his squad last week against Australia. Many see this as South Africa’s ‘A’ team, although captain Siya Kolisi and winger Aphiwe Dyantyi are still to return. He sent the majority of this squad to New Zealand early to prepare for this match, as he has clearly made this fixture a priority to win.
But with a strong team comes the pressure to win, and that is why there is a solid portion of Springboks fans that think their team should emerge victorious. Meanwhile, despite being at home, New Zealand have the luxury of calling this an experimental team should they lose. Still, the sense is that both sets of fans see this game as pivotal ahead of the World Cup.
This is what has been said:
Not only is this game crucial in terms of the pool stage in the World Cup, but this could very well be the final in a few month’s time, as both teams will go their separate ways after the pool stages. That only adds to the importance of this fixture.
While the All Blacks have reigned supreme in World Rugby over the past four years, the Springboks have had a tumultuous time. But there is no denying that they are a force to be reckoned with again, which is why this match is so eagerly anticipated.
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