Preview: All Blacks v Springboks (Auckland)
As ever, Saturday's All Blacks-South Africa Test will be a challenge of styles and World Cup preparation strategies in a game that may also be the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship decider.
Match Details: New Zealand v South Africa, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, July 15, 7.05 pm.
Won: New Zealand 61, South Africa 38, Drawn 4
Last time: South Africa 23-35 New Zealand, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, August 13, 2022
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
FORM: The All Blacks have won their last three Tests at home, scoring an average of 44 points per game, while South Africa have won their last three Tests by an average of 29 points per game.
DEFENCE VARIABLES: Does South Africa have defensive issues? Opta Stats from the first round of the Championship show that the New Zealand and Argentina game resulted in sterner defensive displays. The All Blacks had five players, Jordie Barrett (13), Codie Taylor (12), Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell and Emoni Narawa (11), among the top 11 tacklers in round one, while South Africa had no players with more than 10 tackles. New Zealand had to make 158 tackles against Argentina, while South Africa made only 79 against Australia. The All Blacks' successful tackle percentage was 84.2 per cent compared to South Africa's 73.4 per cent. South Africa conceded 18 turnovers and the All Blacks nine, while the All Blacks won six turnovers to the Springboks' three. New Zealand's lineout functioned at 90 per cent, and South Africa's at 78.9 per cent.
CONTINUITY CONCERNS: A fundamental difference in approach will be tested at Mt Smart. New Zealand opted to take a big squad (36) to Argentina to get valuable training time together, while South Africa chose to send 14 players as an advance guard to minimise the impact of jet lag. The All Blacks also had injured players at home (Sam Whitelock and Will Jordan) and chose not to play lock Brodie Retallick or hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho. Is it easier to blend (possibly) three fresh players into a side than the 10 that South Africa has done? While South Africa was able to carry the ball for 1130m against Australia compared to the 655.9 New Zealand managed against Argentina, will the Springboks continue to move the ball so often or revert to type with more of their kicking game?
THE SCOOP: All Blacks' second five-eighths Jordie Barrett completed a double of 12 carries and 13 tackles against Argentina, the only player across the two Championship games to achieve double figures in both demands.
FAST FACT: The All Blacks' average attacking ruck speed (2.5 seconds) against Argentina at the weekend was the fastest of any team in the competition and nearly a second faster than South Africa (3.4 seconds).
1. Ethan de Groot (14) 2. Codie Taylor (77) 3. Tyrel Lomax (24) 4. Brodie Retallick (100) 5. Scott Barrett (59) 6. Shannon Frizell (26) 7. Sam Cane (captain – 87) 8. Ardie Savea (71) 9. Aaron Smith (115) 10. Richie Mo’unga (45) 11. Mark Telea (2) 12. Jordie Barrett (49) 13. Rieko Ioane (60) 14. Will Jordan (21) 15. Beauden Barrett (113)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (21) 17. Tamaiti Williams * 18. Nepo Laulala (46) 19. Tupou Vaa’i (19) 20. Dalton Papali’i (23) 21. Finlay Christie (15) 22. Braydon Ennor (7) 23. Caleb Clarke (16)
Springboks (Test caps in brackets):
1. Steven Kitshoff (72) 2. Bongi Mbonambi (57) 3. Frans Malherbe (59) 4. Eben Etzebeth (captain) (110) 5. Lood de Jager (65) 6. Kwagga Smith (31) 7. Franco Mostert (63) 8. Jasper Wiese (20) 9. Faf de Klerk (46) 10. Damian Willemse (28) 11. Makazole Mapimpi (36) 12. Damian de Allende (70) 13. Lukhanyo Am (32) 14. Cheslin Kolbe (23) 15. Willie le Roux (84 tests)
16. Malcolm Marx (59) 17. Thomas du Toit (16) 18. Vincent Koch (42) 19. RG Snyman (24) 20. Pieter-Steph du Toit (67) 21. Duane Vermeulen (66) 22. Grant Williams (2) 23. Manie Libbok (4)