It is the uncertainty factor that produces the biggest satisfaction and enjoyment in sport. That uncertainty; brought about by not being sure whether you’ll be able to be victorious or not. That’s why as athletes and human beings we seek and thrive on competition. We find it in challenging ourselves to complete a marathon or to play against individuals or teams with higher rankings. That’s why as nations we play test matches and why even in test matches we want to compete against the very best.
It is sort of boring to play against a team that you know you are going to win. The uncertainty factor is absent and therefore also the real joy in the victory.
I’ve been living in NZ now for 12 years and for only the second time in 12-years there is a real uncertainty in Kiwi land about a test match against South Africa. The last time was in 2010 after the 2009 Springbok victory in Hamilton. The uncertainness in 2010 was not because it was felt that SA played good rugby but because there was uncertainness about the All Black team’s ability to handle the box kick and Matfield in the line-out.
So even though AB supporters were uncertain about the outcome they did not respect the Springboks for the way they played. The All Blacks had a point to prove namely that you could play winning expansive rugby. They came with a ferocious onslaught and some doggy tactics and played us of the park in two test matches and then again in Soweto. What a disappointment that 2010 season was for Springbok supporters.
This time it’s different. There is respect for the type of game South Africa play and a fair amount of uncertainness about the outcome. I was sitting in the coffee shop a moment ago and overheard a lady in her mid-fifties –sitting alone- asking the teenage female waiter out of the blue: “do you watch rugby?” This resulted in a lengthy discussion about the upcoming test match.
My students today ran a pool –everyone donating money- on what the score is going to be. Not in 12 years have I seen so much interest in a Springbok/All Black test match by young and old. Generally it was the older generation that remembered the rivalry with fondness. The younger generation was more interested in the Bledisloe cup.
Now suddenly there is interest because there is real respect for the type of rugby South Africa has been playing so far. There is also realization that the nature of the contest will result in a tight battle. Young and old wants a win against the uncertain odds no matter how; ugly will do.
Personally, I reckon the match can go two ways. One possible scenario being that NZ gets ahead with a freakish try. South Africa then in trying to catch up is forced into errors leaking some more tries resulting in a relative large win for the All Blacks.
The most probable scenario is a real tight contest with precision in execution, in defence, in tactical kicking and in conversion of changes being the deciding factors.
I think the scrums are pretty even. The aerial battle in the line-outs is pretty even. Close-up defence is pretty even. I was impressed with the Springboks team work at the break downs. If they can umbrella the All Blacks in (that is counter their attempts to spread the game) and play with the same commitment, team work and energy at the breakdowns the Boks might just pull this one through.
The All Blacks will try and repeat of the 2010 success recipe namely to be in the Springboks faces. That is applying pressure on the halfbacks, force Steyn into the pocket and in doing so prevent the Springboks from getting over the advantage line. They are going to rush past the collisions and stand in our way to create time and space for their halfbacks, block our defenders and/or be in the way of our playmakers. How the game is adjudicated in this area is going to be a factor but the boks need to man up and get those blockers out of the way.
They are also going to try and outsmart the Springboks. Watch-out for the wiper kicks to a lock on the wing who taps it to a winger. Watch out for the two pocket lineout with a runner coming through the middle when they force a lineout close to our goal line. Watch out for the short stab through kicks to pull the fullback in and wrap him up and for some loop around by the scrumhalf to create space out wide.
They are going to try and avoid scrums and line-outs and are going to try and speed the game up especially in the last 10 minutes before and after halftime and in the last 10 minutes.
Please bokkies don’t disappoint; don’t get caught with an unexpected move and don’t pull another Bakkies Botha on us. Most importantly don’t get beaten at the breakdowns and don’t be too predictable.
The big question is: How hungry is this Springbok team to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand?
We sit with a combination of factors; being on a high after beating the Wallabies (therefore lack of real hunger) and the inability to play with the same passion on two consecutive Saturday’s.
The feeling that they have proved themselves (after the good victory in Brisbane) and that the public/media in SA will be fine with them win or lose must be present in the team.
I am not sure that there is real belief, real desire and real desperation. Real belief that they can win in NZ; real desire to beat the AB in NZ; real desperation to win.
A sense of as long as we put in a decent show we’ll be OK; we can also get them in SA is the monster in the cupboard.