A historic 100th test

Duane Vermeulen and the Springboks forwards take the direct approach against the All Blacks. ADAM PRETTY/GETTY IMAGES

The All Blacks and Springboks, two of the sport’s most decorated nations, meet for the 100th time. A century on from their maiden meeting in 1921 in Dunedin, which was won by the All Blacks 13-5, rugby’s fiercest rivals reignite their feud tonight.

The All Blacks lead the all-time head-to-head record with 59 wins from their 99 encounters to date, while the Springboks have triumphed on 36 occasions, along with four draws.

The titans are level on Webb Ellis Cup, having won three apiece from the nine tournaments. Since 2004, they’ve contested the Freedom Cup The last six Tests between the All Blacks and Springboks have given fans moments of madness.

In 2019 at Yokohama Stadium during the RWC, the ABs beat the Boks 23-13, but prior to that both sides drew 16-16 at Westpac Stadium. In 2018, the Springboks upset the ABs at Westpac Stadium 36-34, while the visitors came from behind to break South African hearts at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria 32-30. In 2017, the ABs won both Tests at North Harbour Stadium 57-0 and at Newlands 25-24, respectively.

Back to tonight’s cracker and the ABs have their tails up after stretching their unbeaten run in the Rugby Championship lead with two wins over Argentina. Ian Foster rested a number of his first-string stars as they pummeled the Pumas 36-13, and after four rounds, the ABs have a full house of 20 points, 10 more than the second placed team and they are all, but assured of landing the title. They demolished the Wallabies 57-22 and 38-21, and outclassed the Pumas 39-0 and 36-13.

The Boks, on the other hand, are staggered following successive defeats to the Wallabies and a victory is a must for Jacques Nienaber’s men if they stand a chance of retaining the Rugby Championship crown. Nienaber has stuck with the same core of players for the centenary match, however, making two changes. The Springboks put in their worst display when they lost 30-17 to the Wallabies last week, in their second successive defeat.

They started both matches as favourites and whilst they were edged out 28-26 with the last gasp penalty in the first match, they were well beaten in Brisbane.

The Springboks won their matches against the Pumas 32-12 and 29-10, respectively, but their chances of winning the title have all, but evaporated. Nienaber previewed the milestone match in Townsville and is expecting a fierce and huge challenge, and the Boks will need a strong defence, accurate execution, and an effective performance. They must capitalise on given opportunities, and make minimal mistakes because the ABs have proved time and again how they punish teams from small errors. Thus, Nienaber has named his best, roping in Willie le Roux, Sibusiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Francois de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Albertus Smith, Siyamthanda Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Francois Mostert, Marco van Staden, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn.

A power-packed squad awaits the All Blacks, who have been working hard, building on their performances and have put themselves in a great position to win the Rugby Championship.

AAP Rugby reported that the All Blacks are expecting a torrid battle up front, and this is the reason coach Ian Foster has recalled his big guns in Jordie, Beauden and Scott Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, George Bridge, TJ Perenara, Luke Jacobson, Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie and Quinn Tupaea.

AAP Rugby reported that the ABs team selected is equipped to play a fast-paced style while the Boks will pursue their slow and deliberate game plan, accentuating kicking and mauling, but with little backline adventure.

I’ll be at Marriott Fiji Resort with my family, but I’ll ensure that I don’t miss this exciting and mouthwatering clash. All Blacks all the way!

 RAJNESH LINGAM is a contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are his and not necessarily of this newspaper or his employer.

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