South Africa were one of just two Southern Hemisphere sides to take a series victory in their respective tours, with Argentina’s late victory over Scotland backing up the Boks win over Wales earlier in the day.
Ultimately the world champions just had too much quality for Wayne Pivac’s touring dragons to cope with, and it’s part of the reason that they head into this clash as favourites, very much a rarity when sides face the All Blacks, even though the Kiwis remain favourites to lift the Rugby Championship.
It’s not been rosy for the Kiwis for some time now, who lost their first ever match to Argentina in this competition two years ago, before confidence hitting defeats to both Ireland and France in their 2021 tour.
Last month, Ireland created history by becoming the first visiting side ever to win a three-match test series on New Zealand soil, and there seems to be an element of uncertainty surrounding the All Blacks at the moment.
That defeat will not only have rattled them, but physically and mentally it was an exhausting series from a home perspective. They were bullied up top, in all honesty, and that will certainly be the area that the Boks will try and exploit in this opener on Saturday.
Springboks To Win
Malcom Marx comes into the side for his 50th test to try and add some impetus in the front row, while Faf de Klerk returns at half-back and looks to reinstate his electric partnership with Handre Pollard, who’ll be integral in taking his side to the gain line.
Ian Foster’s job is very much on the line here, and he’s rolled the dice with a few surprise inclusions. Samisoni Taukei’aho makes just his second start at hooker, while Angus Ta’avao replaces the injured Nepo Laulala at tight head, and that shake up in the front row may be where this match is won and lost. Caleb Clarke is a welcome return on the wing and could provide some danger.
This has been an exceptionally tight encounter in recent years, with six of the last seven meetings being separated by a maximum of two points. That run has seen South Africa hold a W2-D1-L4 record, though with such fine margins in those outings, the current shift in momentum gives the hosts the edge here.
While it’s true the Boks don’t have the best recent home record against their rivals, losing six of the last seven such meetings, the most recent of those came back in 2018, and there’s certainly a different feel about their chances this time round, and they have no better chance to lift their first Freedom Cup since 2009.
SPRINGBOKS TO WIN
Springboks v All Blacks Teams
Starting XV: 15. Damian Willemse, 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Jasper Wiese, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), 1. Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16. Bongi Mbonambi, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Salmaan Moerat, 20. Franco Mostert, 21.Kwagga Smith, 22. Jaden Hendrikse, 23. Willie le Roux
Starting XV: 1. George Bower, 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 3. Angus Ta’avao, 4. Sam Whitelock, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Akira Ioane, 7. Sam Cane (captain), 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Caleb Clarke, 12. David Havili, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Will Jordan, 15. Jordie Barrett
Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ethan de Groot, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Tupou Vaa’i, 20. Shannon Frizell, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Richie Mo’unga, 23. Quinn Tupaea
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