New Zealand may have already clinched the Rugby Championship title with a game to spare, but this final fixture between the top two promises to be fascinating clash, in which the All Blacks will be looking for revenge following their defeat to the Springboks in Wellington, while the home side have the chance to secure a famous double.
Springboks v All Blacks Rugby Championship Prediction and Preview
Head to Head Record
The first meeting between South Africa and New Zealand took place 1921 in Dunedin. New Zealand won that game, but the Springboks won the second encounter in Auckland before drawing in Wellington to secure a drawn series.
Since that first tour, with a short interlude of South African dominance in the late 1930s and 1940s, the All Blacks have fared far better in this fixture, winning 57 of the 96 meetings between the sides, compared to South Africa’s 37, with 3 games ending in a draw.
Until this year’s Rugby Championship, New Zealand had dominated their meetings in the twenty-first century, aside from a brief spell in 2008 and 2009, winning 15 of their 17 meetings since 2010, including a 57-0 thrashing in the 2017 competition.
But South Africa struck a blow against their rivals in Round Four this year, beating the All Blacks 36-34 at Wellington in a titanic struggle, securing their first win against New Zealand since 2014 and their first on New Zealand soil since 2009.
Last Ten Meetings
September 2018 South Africa won 36-34 in Wellington
October 2017: New Zealand won 25-24 in Cape Town
September 2017: New Zealand won 57-0 in North Shore City
October 2016: New Zealand won 57-15 in Durban
September 2016: New Zealand won 41-13 in Christchurch
October 2015: New Zealand won 20-18 in London
July 2015: New Zealand won 27-20 in Johannesburg
October 2014: South Africa won 27-25 in Johannesburg
September 2014: New Zealand won 14-10 in Wellington
October 2013: New Zealand won 38-27 in Johannesburg
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Rassie Erasmus did not enjoy a smooth start to his tenure as South African coach. Although they won a home series against England, they missed an opportunity to secure a 3-0 win when they lost the last Test, and there were further disappointments in the Rugby Championship, with consecutive defeats to Argentina and Australia that left Erasmus publicly speculating about his future. But the sensational performance in Wellington was a sign of the potential of this Springboks side and they backed it up by beating Australia in Week Five.
After their famous drawn series with the Lions in the summer of 2017, the All Blacks embarked on a familiar spell of dominance, with a 16-1 win-loss record. They kicked off the Rugby Championship with back-to-back victories over Australia, and secured their sixth title with two wins against Argentina, though these successes took place either side of that surprise home defeat to the Springboks.
Flanker Francois Louw has been recalled to the Springboks squad for this game as cover for Warren Whiteley, who missed last weekend’s game due to a groin injury and remains a doubt for the Rugby Championship finale. There was better news on centre Damien De Allende, who was also absent in Port Elizabeth. He has been undergoing rehabilitation on a shoulder injury but could be ready to return on Saturday.
The All Blacks don’t have too many injury or selection worries, and the most difficult decision facing coach Steve Hansen is whether to start the game with Sonny Bill Williams. The dynamic and versatile star made his comeback last week against Argentina, and with conditions expected to be dry in Pretoria, he should be ideally suited, and it will be tempting for Hansen to unleash him from the start.
The last three meetings between these two rivals have produced an average of 60.33 points per game, so we should be in for plenty of entertainment this weekend at Loftus Versfeld.
The All Blacks have the Rugby Championship title in the bag, but the shock of Wellington will surely be extra motivation for Hansen’s side to finish the tournament strongly and to re-establish their southern hemisphere dominance.
The fact that this game is likely to be played in fast, dry conditions, does tilt things in New Zealand’s favour, but there are a number of reasons for Springboks fans to be optimistic.
For a start, Erasmus’ side has plenty of potential. The team is still coming together, and we can reasonably expect further improvement, which is exciting, given what they have already achieved. It is also worth noting that the All Blacks have a relatively poor record on South African soil, compared to their overall record, having won 23 out of 48.
It is still probably right to price up the visitors as favourites for this game, but there is a lot of upside to this Springboks team and their dominant pack – arguably the best front eight in the world right now – will once again pose New Zealand serious problems. The market has underestimated the home side and they look good value to back up their Wellington win.
- Back South Africa to win at 4/1
- Back South Africa +12 at 10/11
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Kick-off is scheduled for 17:05 on Saturday.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Ryan Crotty