Planet Rugby

Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

11th July 2008 09:11

Share:

JP Pietersen big grin

JP PIetersen: Has he found his form and touch?

From bitter cold to just plain bitter. Or from mildly unsavoury to nasty and sour. Whichever way you look at it though, the atmosphere surrounding the two Tests between the All Blacks and Springboks that have opened this year's Tri-Nations has deteriorated alarmingly.

Faults lie on both sides, but the pressure is always more on the losers to behave gracefully. Moaning about illegal scrums is a worn-out excuse, and John Smit's departure lounge double-standards rant was behaviour very unbecoming for an experienced captain. He has done his team no favours by lighting that fuse in the aftermath of the match when he can't be on the pitch to face the potential ensuing explosion.

But the All Blacks are no angels. It's not rocket science to target your opposition's best player, and so Dan Carter is always going to be under close scrutiny one way or another. Whining about that isn't going to help anyone's cause - it's odd enough that you should moan when you're winning so comprehensively anyway.

That was the usual boring guff.

The radio interview from Craig Dowd saying that Peter de Villiers was a political 'puppet' to SA Rugby, and the singularly revolting 'racism' reaction and counter-reaction in its aftermath is not the usual boring guff.

Just as Smit did to Corné Krige a week ago over some ill-chosen words, so Rodney So'oialo or even Richie McCaw should do to Dowd: namely tell him to shut up and shove off unless he has something substantial and relevant to Saturday's match to say.

Dowd may say that he was merely answering a question, but just because he is not contracted to the NZRU, it does not mean he does not have a responsibility to the game and to be respectful to visiting teams. The air between the teams was already thick, it thickened visibly on Thursday. It didn't need to

As for De Villiers, his reaction would be enough to practically cook his goose in any country other than South Africa. A national coach has a position of responsibility too; flinging around thinly-veiled accusations of racism while on tour is irresponsibility - or at the very least naivety - personified. He must know that his emotional reactions will transfer to his team, that if he loses control off the pitch, the team might lose control on it.

But he's not been helped by his overlords demanding public apologies when the dignified approach would have been haughty silence or even a sarcastic shrug of the shoulders.

But irresponsibility runs from the top downwards in SA Rugby; it's crazy that nobody was able to step in in time and say: "right boys, button the lips and let the boys do the talking on the park". Andy Marinos did on Friday, but far too late, and it shouldn't have been his job.

Let's have a look at the boys on the park anyway - there are far more problems there for the Boks to worry about than the taunts of an ex-international prop.

The imbalances of last week seem not to have been addressed. Butch James is still without a kicking number twelve to help ease the pressure. Percy Montgomery will step up at times to help him out, but it seems a complicated way of doing it when Francois Steyn could have simply slotted in and thus pushed Jean de Villiers outside one, thereby eliminating the fragile defence of Adi Jacobs.

Monty's inclusion at the expense of Conrad Jantjes, and the instatement of JP Pietersen - no games for a couple of months and only just back from a period of extra conditioning because he wasn't fit enough in June - is a slap in the face for Jantjes after his excellence last week. Couldn't Jantjes have offered more of the same from the wing, feeding off Monty's calm?

The props were crushed last week, yet the same props are chosen. The Boks needed more physicality in the loose, yet Pierre Spies is still ignored. The flaws in the team and the tactics were exposed last week, yet pretty much the same team and tactics are being offered up.

It makes Graham Henry's and New Zealand's job pretty easy. Changing Greg Somerville for John Afoa means there is a little more punch in the loose, going on Afoa's form against Ireland in June. That will compensate for the loss of Brad Thorn a touch as well. The drier conditions ought to mean we see a little more of the flair that is on show, especially with confidence levels soaring.

So, more of the same this week from both teams. Probably about the same result as well. But please let there be none of the off-field idiocy translating onto the pitch.

Ones to watch:

For New Zealand: John Afoa was in the middle of an excellent debut against Ireland when injury intervened. Afoa was New Zealand's top ball-carrying prop during this year's Super 14, and has long been waiting in the wings, boasting an impressive 60 Super Rugby caps at the age of just 24 as well as an impressive 120kg frame. Attention from South Africa is focussing on Tony Woodcock's side of the scrum, but forgetting Afoa in the wake of this would be perilous. Watch for his extensive forays with the ball in hand as well.

For South Africa: JP Pietersen's recall from what was the outer edges of the Bok squad a little more than a month ago is a real eyebrow-raiser. Peter de Villiers said he was out of condition after the Super 14 in which the youngster failed either to score a try or impress, unlike his counterpart Tonderai Chavhanga. It's been a month since then, maybe Pietersen is fit and has rediscoverd his mojo.

Head to head: Dan Carter v Butch James. The best in the world against... how do you classify Butch James? With the necessary support cast, James is a dominant force as he proved in the World Cup. But his is a fragile temperament; like many fly-halves, the team has to play to him for him to play to them back. With an erratic scrum-half, with no kicking inside centre to take the pressure off him, and with the speed of the game increased under the ELVs, James faces a tough task in getting up to speed quickly enough to deal with the world's best. And when he's not, that old disciplinary worry is showing signs of blighting his game again.

Recent results:

2008 New Zealand won 19-8 in Wellington

2007 New Zealand won 33-6 in Christchurch

2007 New Zealand won 26-21 in Durban

2006 South Africa won 21-20 in Rustenburg

2006 New Zealand won 45-26 in Pretoria

2006 New Zealand won 35-17 in Wellington

2005 New Zealand won 31-27 in Dunedin

2005 South Africa won 22-16 in Cape Town

2004 South Africa won 40-26 in Johannesburg

2004 New Zealand won 23-21 in Christchurch

2003 New Zealand won 29-9 in Sydney (RWC)

2003 New Zealand won 19-11 in Dunedin

2003 New Zealand won 52-16 in Pretoria

2002 New Zealand won 30-23 in Durban

2002 New Zealand won 41-20 in Wellington

2001 New Zealand won 26-15 in Auckland

2001 New Zealand won 12-3 in Cape Town

Prediction: The sooner this Bok tour ends, the better. New Zealand by 20 points.

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Rodney So'oialo (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Neemia Tialata, 18 Kevin O'Neill, 19 Sione Lauaki, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Leon MacDonald.

South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Schalk Britz, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Conrad Jantjes.

Date: Saturday, July 12

Venue: Carisbrook, Dunedin

Kick-off: 19:35 (08:35 BST)

Weather: Strong north-westerly wind, 7°C but feeling fresher, slight chance of rain.

Referee: Matt Goddard

Assistants: James Leckie, Paul Marks

TMO: George Ayoub

By Danny Stephens

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Castres vs Bay Of Plenty18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western Province17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Preview
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Preview
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay14:35
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs Waikato19:35
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs Tasman16:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00