Rugby Championship 2019: New Zealand vs South Africa
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington (NZ)
Date: Saturday, 27 July 2019
It may not be much of a surprise to learn that the All Blacks and generally dominated the Springboks in recent clashes. New Zealand have won all but two of their last 14 Tests against the ‘Boks, and that includes a 32-30 win the last time the two countries played. All in all, the All Blacks have picked up 22 wins in their last 25 Tests against all nations.
Interestingly, though, the last time the two countries met in New Zealand it was South Africa that came out on top. Their 36-34 win last time out in the country was as shocking as it was impressive and the ‘Boks will be looking to build on that win here. If they are able to beat the All Blacks in their own country again, claiming back-to-back wins, then it will be just the third time they have ever achieved this feat.
This will likely be the deciding game in the 2019 Rugby Championship as it features the two winners from Round 1 squaring off. South Africa looked impressive in beating the Wallabies at home 35-17, while New Zealand managed to pick up a win on the other side of the world when they took down the Pumas 20-16 in Argentina.
This is a game that both teams appear to be taking seriously. With the World Cup approaching quickly, the coaching staffs are attempting to manage player’s minutes and get a read on anyone that might be worthy of a place on the plane to Japan. That is making some of these late-season internationals a chore to watch, but this one should be good.
New Zealand are putting an interesting twist on their team for Saturday. Damian McKenzie was a likely candidate to start at fullback – or at least see extended time there – in Japan before a torn-up knee during the Super Rugby season cost him his World Cup.
Steve Hansen is looking at options here, playing starting first-five Beauden Barrett in the No. 15 jersey and trotting out Richie Mo’unga in the fly-half spot to face South Africa. Mo’unga is a seasoned Super Rugby player, but this will be only his third Test start. Look for New Zealand to use the same dual playmaker strategy that Hansen loved last year with Mo’unga and Barrett as interchangeable parts in the system.
The South Africa team to take on New Zealand is also a strong one. The ‘Boks will be led from the front by Duane Vermeulen in the continued absence of Siya Kolisi, while the team is much changed from the experimental XV that featured against the Wallabies.
Only two members of the pack remain from that game – lock Eben Etzebeth and flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit – and wing Makazole Mapimpi is the sole back to retain his place from a week ago.
Kwagga Smith starts in the back row, with the former Blitzbok star making just his second appearance for the XVs international side. Other starters of note include Willie le Roux and Cheslin Koble, who join Mapimpi in an exciting back three.
South Africa are a team that can cause some problems for New Zealand. This is a preview of the World Cup opener for both teams in Yokohama later this year, though it is fair to say that the coaching teams will be much more interested in the performance, and in their stars getting through this unscathed, than in the result. Having said that, it is hard to see South Africa repeated their Westpac heroics for a second consecutive year.