A lot is at stake for the Springboks and All Blacks in Saturday’s World Cup opening match in Jokohama, because a team could never hold the Webb Ellis Trophy if they lost a match in the group rounds.
This is where the foundation is laid, where a team builds momentum and psychologically takes an advantage over its opponents.
The winning team believes they can win the tournament (think of the 1995 Boks who beat the Wallabies 25-18 and have the 2007 team that overcame England 36-0 and went on to clinch the tournament).
Records are sure to be broken, but the winning team’s path to the play-offs on their way to a potential final is also more easily spotted with a quarter-final game against Scotland awaiting, while the team that is likely to lose to Ireland in the quarterback will play.
The All Blacks are the favorites, as they have won the tournament twice in a row in 2011 and 2015, they have won the Rugby Championship six out of eight times since 2012 and were first in World Rugby for many years. They have also won 16 of the last 20 Tests against the Boks since 2010.
The Crusaders also have no equal in the Super Series.
But everything is not a beacon in the All Blacks ‘camp, because they jump around with their team choices and seemingly have no antidote to the Boks’ rushing defense. This is not only where it is said, but also in their own media, also in the Northern Hemisphere.
Steve Hansen. Photo: (Tsuyoshi Ueda / Kyodo News via AP)
All Black coach Steve Hansen also allowed Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus to crawl under his skin by asking the referees not to favor the All Blacks.
Would this have happened a few years ago?
Erasmus did not redesign the wheel, he just went back to South Africa’s traditional strengths, to soften before and then hit backwards.
That’s how the Boks will, and will, play. They are going to kick, kick a lot. They are going to tackle, very much. They go and grind, float and float.
They can unsettle the All Blacks, but if the Kiwis can overcome it, they will prevail.
Just hope French referee Jérôme Garcès keeps his hands out of his pockets.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 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 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea , 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Ben Smith.
Kickoff: 11:45 (SA time).
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France).
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Karl Dickson (England).
TV Referee: Graham Hughes (England).
Expected weather: 60% chance of rain, 20 ˚C.