The Springboks rarely need extra motivation when they play the All Blacks – the history, rivalry and quality of the contest ensure that every time they meet, the Test generally goes to the column marked “great”.
But at the unfamiliar 25,000-capacity Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland’s southeastern industrial suburbs, the world champions will have something extra to play for. Memory of Ibn Atzibeth’s father.
The death of Harry Elizabeth this week was a severe blow to the family. He had been ill for several months, and Eben’s recent shoulder injury had allowed him to spend more time with his father than he would normally have.
Still, it’s hard to be away from South Africa when your father passes away. But Elizabeth decided to play.
By all accounts, he wanted to play, which suggests he knew when he boarded the plane to New Zealand more than a week ago that he might have seen his father for the last time.
“We prepared ourselves as we always do for the test matches, and with the loss of Eben, our first thought was to support Eben,” said assistant coach Mzwandel Stik.
We supported whatever decision he made. He wants to play, he wants to honor his father in that way, and under the circumstances you can’t ask for a bigger game to do that. We are a family at Springboks and we support each other. We will do everything we can to support him and play the best we can.”
All Black captain Sam Cane expressed sympathy for his counterpart, but clarified that condolences would be suspended for 80 minutes.
“It’s clearly been a very difficult week for him and his family, and as a team we send our condolences to Elizabeth’s family,” Kanye said. “It must be very hard for him on the other side of the world. I suppose we’ll see each other at the coin toss, and then have a fight in the field.”
Direct your feelings positively
It will undoubtedly be emotional, but the Boks are experienced enough these days to channel those emotions positively. And they will need to because this will be their toughest challenge ahead of the World Cup.
There’s also the small matter of 86 years since the Oakland Springboks won, when the great 1937 team triumphed. Records are made to be broken. It would be good to change this.
In 2008, the Boks ended an 87-year losing record in Dunedin, so maybe the 2023 season can do the same.
New Zealand always oscillates between the great and the fantastic, especially on home soil, and the 2023 team is no different. They dismantled the Pumas in Mendoza last week, and called up several big names like flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, fullback Beauden Barrett and lock Brodie Retallick to take on the Boks. This is not Mbombela anymore.
After losing 26-10 in South Africa’s first two tests in 2022, the All Blacks rebounded to win 35-23 at Ellis Park a week later. This was due to some poor selections by the Boks, and a very improved performance by the All Blacks.
“I love these test matches against the Boks,” Kane said. Our Forward Pack does just that. They are games that are often won in advance. There have been some epic battles over the years, and everything points to another battle tomorrow.
“You can see from the bench they picked that they think it’s going to be a winning game up front. We know their DNA and how they like to play – scrum, batting, penalty kick, set piece… We’re in for a great challenge. Last time we played (at Ellis Park) we did really well in those areas And we like to think we’ve improved since then.”
cane right. At Ellis Park, his side showed they could live with the physicality of the Boks after beating them the week before.
The question now is, will the All Blacks match the powerful Boks again and can they do it against the brutal Bok bench – the Bomb Squad – for a full 80 minutes?
That Peter Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, RJ Sneeman, Vincent Koch, Thomas du Toit, and Malcolm Marks join the second half of the party should be unnerving for any team.
But at home, it’s possible Ian Foster’s men can physically match the Boks. As a result, the Boks, while they need to win the fight for momentum on the winning line, will also have to continue to show their increasing prowess on offense.
past weeks 43-12 win over the Wallabies At Loftus showed how diverse the Boks can be, but there are new employees this week. Last week’s quarterbacks Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach were picked to build rhythm and throw unexpected questions from the Wallabies.
There is a sense that although this week’s duo – Pfaff de Klerk and Damien Willems – have a fantastic natural attacking nature, the approach will be more pragmatic.
Smooth all black
Ideally, the Boks want the All Blacks to smooth out, play for territory, and use their set piece to build pressure. Later, if this plan works, the likes of Grant Williams and Libbok could extend the game.
Cheslin Colby and Makazol Mpembe are the best of the squad, and Lujanio AM showed touches of his class last week. Willie le Roux and Damian de Allende are very stylish. There’s a lot to like about this Team Poke.
But the other way around, the All Blacks have cutouts all over the place, and if their pack provides something close to par, the Boks are going to have a much tougher day.
Bock’s defense was widely vulnerable if the system broke down from the outside in. Much will depend on whether the All Blacks are quick and daring enough to push passes against a stifling defense.
And will the Boks’ goal kicks with their combination of Willemse, Kolbe and De Klerk be accurate enough to keep the scoreboard?
Passion, contrasting styles, brilliant players and 102 years of history have made this a test match for the ages. The outcome of the Rugby Championship is teetering on, as is the momentum of the World Cup. Pack up. DM
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Ricco Ewan, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tilea, 10 Richie Muonga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardi Savea, 7 Sam Kane (Captain), 6 Shannon Frizzell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick , 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Protectorates: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Braydon Ennor, 23 Caleb Clarke.
15 Willy Le Roux, 14 Cheslin Colby, 13 Lujanio AM, 12 Damien De Allende, 11 Makazole Mpembe, 10 Damien Willemse, 9 Pfaff de Klerk, 8 Jasper Veese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Quagga Smith, 5 Lowwood de Jager, 4 Abin Etzebeth (Captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Stephen Ketchove.
Protectorates: 16 Malcolm Marks, 17 Thomas Du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RJ Sneeman, 20 Peter Steve du Toit, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Manny LeBoc.
to rule: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Starting: 9.05 am (South African time).