So now it’s all on again
The Springboks loss to the Wallabies has left the door ever so slightly open for the All Blacks.
It certainly means it will be all on for young and old at Waikato Stadium this weekend, with the Boks still looking to close it out, and the All Blacks knowing a good win could send them to Wellington with a chance to sneak it in the final match against Australia.
While the Wallabies should be given full credit for a sharp turnaround in form, and a deserved and quite clear cut victory in Brisbane, I though the Springboks slipped below the standards they have set for themselves.
It’s further proof of just how demanding this Tri-Nations competition is. Every time you play you are up against one of the best three sides in the world. So if you don’t bring your A game, you are going to pay for it.
The Springboks didn’t bring their A game to Brisbane. The day after watching it I was calling an Air New Zealand Cup match with Grant Fox. We compared notes and both reckoned that the Boks looked just a bit flat mentally and physically, especially after having to do a lot of chasing around the park in the first half.
I can’t imagine complacency was an issue. They have been through a couple of tricky time changes in the past fortnight, which might have been a factor. Whatever the reasons, they now face a big challenge of having to go a couple of hours further east for their third match in as many weeks, and needing to get their mojo back quick smart.
In a funny way, the result in Brisbane has probably ramped up the pressure on both teams.
The Boks might feel a bit edgy about having to win in New Zealand....I say win, because I am not yet certain a losers bonus point will be enough to get them over the line. Besides, when was the last time an All Black or Springbok team ever went into a test with a plan to not lose by more than 7 points!
Had the Springboks won in Brisbane I would have been quite confident of an All Black win in Hamilton in a “dead” rubber, if there is such a thing when these two great rivals meet.
I still think they can do it, but I’m not quite so confident. The Boks will be desperate to bounce back (and prove last year’s win in Dunedin was not a one-off), while the All Blacks will not only be under the normal pressure to win the game, there will be an expectation for them to go all out to score four tries and grab a vital bonus point.
That won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination. They have only scored four tries all up in their four games so far, so it’s going to be a tough job to try and do it now against the redoubtable Springbok defence.
And the trouble with this All Black team is that when they go into a match determined to play all out on attack, they make mistakes, like they did in Sydney last year, and in Durban earlier this season, when they contributed in no small way to their own demise.
Certainly, there has been a slight shift in the psychology of this encounter, which makes it all the more fascinating.
Talking of psychology, I’m interested to see that the Boks have opted to stay most of the week in Australia, training on the Gold Coast. Obviously they felt the excitement and the bright lights of Hamilton would be too much to handle in the leadup to the test!