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OPINION: Springboks & All Blacks Battle for Chance at Redemption

Both the All Blacks and Springboks have a serious point to prove on Saturday.

Jeremy Proome

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There’s a noticeable swing of the pendulum in the sentiment around the All Blacks as of late. Following their series loss to Ireland in July, along with another loss to the men in green in Dublin last year before taking a 40-25 hammering to France in Paris, it’s fair to say that the mighty All Blacks are off their game.

With that said, it’s fair to acknowledge the fact that Ireland and France are arguably the most improved teams in world rugby in recent seasons, and so much so that it’s hard to argue that they’re going into the 2023 Rugby World Cup with belief that they could nab the trophy. With the way Ireland played in their third series Test against the All Blacks, you’d be hard pressed to find any side that would’ve kept them at bay. Slick passing, brutal defence, and wings beating their opposing men — this is what rugby perfection is made of, however, New Zealand is often not on the receiving end of it, which felt… unusual.

So where are the All Blacks going wrong? There’s no doubt that there are things at play in the NZ Rugby HQ with CEO Mark Robinson applying an immense amount of pressure to coach Ian Foster, essentially giving him two games against the Springboks to save his job, is playing a huge role. But, while other teams have endured boardroom politics affecting the on-field action, the All Blacks have been somewhat immune to it throughout history.

This time feels different, though, and there’s a clear uncertainty around the All Blacks camp, with a lot of changes to the familiar squad and players even showing surprise that they’re being fast-tracked into the starting line-up. The scrambling uneasiness around the New Zealand rugby side is rare and quite bizarre to witness. But, it’s where they find themselves.

Credit: Facebook | Springboks

It’s fair to keep in mind, though, that they still are the All Blacks, made up of many of the same players who have overcome tough games time and time again, despite having some inexperienced players joining the fray. To write them off and throw around exaggerated score predictions against the Springboks would be foolish, as even when the Boks have been at their worst, they always manage to raise their intensity and efficiency against their pacific counterparts.

As for the Springboks, while they’re on the end of some euphoria from the public and being lauded as favourites, let’s not forget that they squeaked past Wales in a tough series — and let’s be honest, a Welsh side which shouldn’t have given the Springboks as much trouble as they did.

Additionally, as fantastic as the Springboks’ 2021 win over an admittedly-exceptional British & Irish Lions side was, it wasn’t easy. Furthermore, the 31-29 victory over the All Blacks in October last year was marred by a double-loss to the Wallabies in the Australia-based Rugby Championship series. That’s not saying that the Springboks are looking sharper, fitter, and more settled than the current All Blacks side, but pretending that they’re invincible could prove detrimental.

The Springboks have work to do too, and while the Kiwis have a lot riding on this game and need to prove themselves, so do the Boks to an extent. Jacques Nienaber’s men need to use this opportunity to galvanise the fear of the Springboks once again and resurrect that jaw-dropping form last seen in the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

With both teams needing to prove to their fans (and themselves) that they are what they say they are, it should make for a stellar encounter.

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