By Alan Dymock
THE LAST match between New Zealand and South Africa in the Rugby Championship may have been as contentious as an infant in it’s first hour of learning the word “no”, but history tells us that the second and final Test of this season’s tournament in Johannesburg should be a ripsnorter.
Two rounds ago the All Blacks took a bonus-point win over the Boks at Eden Park, 29 – 15, in a game marred by a controversial red card for visiting hooker Bismarck du Plessis and second-half yellows for All Blacks Kieran Read and Ma’a Nonu. In the end, though, the Kiwis’ four tries – two from Read – were enough to see off the hosts.
However, with South Africa yearning to prove a point and the All Blacks still wary of the bruising Boks, anything can still happen. Particularly at Ellis Park.
The last time the two sides met at Ellis it was 2004 and the Springboks trampled their way to a 40 – 26 victory. A hat-trick of tries for centre Marius Joubert was added to by Breyton Paulse and Jean de Villiers, while the All Blacks could only muster scores from Mils Muliaina and Joe Rokocoko. It was a slugfest, but while Andrew Mehrtens tried his damndest to kick New Zeland further ahead the dead-eyed Percy Montgomery was there keeping pace with him.
The game was noteworthy for the fact that Muliaina pumped New Zealand to a 10-point lead and Welsh referee Nigel Williams had to hobble off the park after 15 minutes, but the main talking point of the match was the muscle of the hosts. Built on the work of Os du Randt, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Joe van Niekerk, the lesser-known warrior Gerrie Britz and the mastermind Joost van der Westhuizen there was no chance for New Zealand.
It is no wonder Graham Henry set about changing the culture of the All Black after this defeat…
If you want to know the last time New Zealand won at Ellis against South Africa, though, you have to go all the way back to 1997 when the visitors just pipped the Boks to a 35 – 32 victory.
Two tries from Frank Bunce and one each for Jeff Wilson and Carlos Spencer gave them an advantage over the two-try Springboks, who dotted down with Naka Drotske and Russell Bennett, but they only just made it in the end as a last-play kick from Jannie de Beer that would have rendered the game a draw hit the post.
Will the game on Saturday be as tight as those at Ellis in the past? Well, whether it is or it isn’t, the Springboks fans are finding solace in that and listening to the noises coming from South Africa chief Heyneke Meyer they will not be happy unless they have thrown everything at New Zealand.
The ultimate game of the 2013 Rugby Championship could be beautifully brutal.