The Springboks face the mighty All Blacks in Johannesburg this weekend, after a narrow last-gast defeat in Brisbane in Round 1.
A combination of injury and tactics means that New Zealand and Steve Hansen have a chance this week to show off the absurd depth of their squad. With just 3 games left before the Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks tweak the recipe, leaving Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of their squad, opting to hand Lima Sopoaga his first cap, and inserting Conrad Smith in the centre. These changes should be seamless for New Zealand as Sopoaga and Aaron Smith, Highlanders teammates, will gel nicely and Conrad will feel comfortable next to his fellow Hurricane Ma’a Nonu in the centre. Up front, the addition of Dane Coles, Jerome Kaino and debutant James Broadhurst show the enviable wealth of talent that Steve Hansen has to pick from.
Having secured the win against Argentina, although perhaps not in the style they would have liked, New Zealand will look to improve again and show the world the 80-minute performance that we know they are capable of. If they choose to do this against South Africa, who are smarting from their last-second loss to Australia, it is difficult to imagine the game yielding anything but a New Zealand victory.
South Africa make a total of 8 changes to the 23 that faced up against Australia in Brisbane, the most notable being the inclusion of Heinrich Brussow for the first time since the 2011 World Cup. Brussow will man the blindside in a back row that South Africa may well highlight as a key to victory. New Zealand’s voracious loose forwards are some of the best in the world at the breakdown, but a unit of Brussow, Francois Louw and captain Schalk Burger can more than hold their own and perhaps neutralise the threat posed by McCaw et al.
South Africa lead Australia for the vast majority of last week’s game and yet were unable to hold off the Wallabies indefinitely, not helped by some difficulty in the scrum in the latter period of the match. A strong performance from the upstart centre partnership of Damian Allende and Jesse Kriel could neuter New Zealand’s wily Hurricanes midfield of Nonu and Conrad Smith, but ultimately if the Springbok pack wilts under the steely gaze of the All Blacks scrum, the visitors will surely come out on top.