Venue – Twickenham, London
Date: Friday, August 25
The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is almost here, and South Africa and New Zealand will take to the hallowed grounds of Twickenham in London on Friday in each country’s final warm-up game before the tournament begins.
This is a big game for a number of reasons. While projected starters may find their minutes limited, there are players still looking to impress in both camps. The World Cup is a long and physical tournament. The chances of either South Africa or New Zealand running through it without picking up significant injuries is unlikely. Those jockeying for position behind the initial 23 will see this as a final chance to make their case to move up the pecking order.
The other big reason this game matters is that South Africa hasn’t been good against the other established favorites for this tournament. The last time the Boks picked up a big win over New Zealand, France, or Ireland was just over a year ago when they beat New Zealand by 16 points in Nelspruit. While some think that this may be a strategy to downplay their chances in France, it has to be a worry the way they have performed over the last year when not facing England, Argentina, and Australia.
South Africa would have loved a November win over Ireland or France, but they instead lost by a combined seven points in Marseille and Dublin. The problem in those games was – as so often in Boks’ defeats – they were slow out of the blocks, and their opposition in a big Test ran out to a lead. If nothing else in this one, it would be good to see South Africa stay in touch with New Zealand for the first 30 minutes of the match.
Siya Kolisi is starting his second match in a row after his ACL tear in what is a huge positive. The experimental part of this lineup sees Canan Moodie in the No. 13 jumper outside Andre Esterhuizen as South Africa looks at other options in the midfield while waiting for the (potential) return of Lukhanyo Am.
There was a time in this World Cup cycle when New Zealand looked vulnerable. That feeling has disappeared over the last 12 months, with the All Blacks looking back to their devastating best. They rolled through the Rugby Championship last month, crushing Argentina and Australia 41-12 and 38-7, respectively, while also putting in a dominant performance to beat South Africa 35-20 in Auckland.
There is no Brodie Retallick or Shannon Frizell in the All Blacks lineup with both out injured. Sam Cane makes his second start in a row in a class-looking starting XV that sees a backline loaded with players like Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, and Will Jordan.
New Zealand has won 11 matches in a row. Despite defeats in November, South Africa has won six of seven, with their only defeat in that stretch being against the All Blacks last month. I can’t pick South Africa here. The All Blacks are too settled, and that backline is frightening. They will win and cover the -5.5 with BetXchange.