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JOHANNESBURG — All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster is telling the rugby journalists gathered in Wellington for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test match between New Zealand and South Africa that he’s impressed with the Boks and that his team is not underestimating the opposition. But one can’t help see the All Black team as a gigantic iceberg and Rassie Erasmus as the Titanic’s man in charge of the deckchairs. Given the overwhelming performance by the All Blacks in this year’s tournament, and the stuttering performance of the Boks, only a die-hard fan with a somewhat irrational sense of hope will predict a positive result for the visitors. Erasmus has made expected changes to his team, with the apparently unfit Bongi Mbonambi being relegated to the bench after being unable to last more than 34 minutes of last week’s Test according to Erasmus. The backline is reshuffled after Makazole Mapimpi was ruled out with a knee injury, and Pollard swops places with Jantjies. The Springboks have only beaten the All Blacks three times on New Zealand soil since readmission. Incredibly, that’s a good stat compared with other Test nations. Someone is bound to tell you that stranger things have happened in sport, but a Bok victory on Saturday is not one of them. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
Handré Pollard will start at flyhalf for the Springboks on Saturday when they take on the All Blacks in Wellington, while Malcolm Marx and Lukhanyo Am are also back in the starting line-up for the Boks’ final away match in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, announced his Springbok match-23 on Thursday afternoon in the New Zealand capital, with three changes and one positional switched confirmed in the starting line-up.
Three of those changes are in the backline, while Erasmus also made some tweaks to the bench.
Pollard comes into the starting line-up and Elton Jantjies is set to play off the bench. Jesse Kriel is picked on the right wing as a result of the injury to Makazole Mapimpi, who has returned to South Africa to undergo further scans on his right knee.
As a result, Am takes Kriel’s position at outside centre and partners Damian de Allende in a new-look midfield combination.
The only change to the pack sees Marx rotating starting places with Bongi Mbonambi in the No 2 jersey and amongst the reserves, Ross Cronje swaps places with Embrose Papier as the backup scrumhalf.
Erasmus emphasised that the Springboks will have to reduce the amount of costly errors against New Zealand.
“We have to deliver a much improved performance against the All Blacks,” said Erasmus.
“Keeping our discipline and retaining possession will be key, because New Zealand’s ability to counter from turnover ball is well-known.
“That means we have to be patient, our decision-making must be good and we have to capitalise on the opportunities that we create. The traditional rivalry between the two countries means we can expect a huge physical battle.”
The Springbok team to face the All Blacks in Wellington (in order of name and surname, franchise/club, Test caps and points):
15. Willie le Roux (Wasps, England), 47, 55 – 11t
14. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 33, 45 – 9t
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 5, 5 – 1t
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 31, 15 – 3t
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi (Emirates Lions), 6, 15 – 3t
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 32, 254 – 3t, 46c, 46p, 3d
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 17, 10 – 2t
8. Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions), 20, 15 – 3t
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 39, 20 – 4t
6. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 34, 25 – 5t
5. Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), 23, 5 – 1t
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 70 – 15 – 3t
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 22, 0
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 17, 15 – 3t
1. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 30, 5 – 1t
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 19, 10 – 2t
17. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 104, 10 – 2t
18. Wilco Louw (DHL Stormers), 9, 0
19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 5, 0
20. Francois Louw (Bath, England, 60, 45 – 9t
21. Ross Cronjé (Emirates Lions), 10, 10 – 2t
22. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions, 27, 223 – 2t, 42c, 43p
23. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 1, 0
Facts and stats:
- The total Test caps in the Springbok starting line-up is 426. There are 171 caps in the backline with 255 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 235 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline are 24, the forwards 32 while the players on the bench average 29. The average age of the starting team is 26.
- With a tally of 51 career points against New Zealand, Handré Pollard is fourth on the point scoring list behind Morné Steyn (139), Percy Montgomery (106) and Joel Stransky (54).
Records and approaching milestones:
- Pollard is just 17 points away from scoring 100 points in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
- Eben Etzebeth will play in his record 36th consecutive Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test match.
- The Westpac Stadium in Wellington, with a seating capacity of 34,500 (which can be increased to 38,000 for major Test matches), was opened on 3 January, 2000.
- Saturday’s Test match will be the seventh between New Zealand and South Africa at the stadium and the Springboks are still winless there. Their record for the previous six Tests is: P: 6; L: 6; PF: 79; PA: 180; TF: 9; TA: 19; Average score: 13-30; Win%: 0%.
- All six Tests were played in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. In the very first Test match at this venue in 2002 the score was 20-41, which is the most points conceded by the Springboks at this ground.
- South Africa’s overall record in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against New Zealand is: P: 47; W: 12; L: 35; PF: 881; PA: 1,358; TF: 80; TA: 142; Average score: 19-29. Win%: 26%.
- South Africa’s overall record against New Zealand is: P: 95; W: 35; L: 57; D: 3; PF: 1,482; PA: 1,945; TF: 143; TA: 212; Average score: 16-20. Win%: 37%.
- New Zealand’s biggest win against the Springboks was last year when the All Blacks won 57-0 in Albany. The Springboks’ best win was on 30 June 1928, when they beat the All Blacks 17-0 in Durban – New Zealand’s first Test on South African soil.
- The referee is Nigel Owens of Wales. He was born on 18 June, 1971 in Mynyddcerrig, Carmarthenshire. His first Test was in 2005 when he refereed a Test between Japan and Ireland in Osaka.
- Owens is the most experienced referee in the world with 83 Test match appearances to date. He has refereed in 16 Tests that involved South Africa previously, with the Springboks winning nine.
- The two assistant referees are Pascal Gaüzère of France and Nic Berry of Australia, while Englishman Rowan Kitt is the television referee.