Real Test of All Blacks 2019 potential

If ever there was to be a simulation of the high-intensity, knockout rugby that fans and players will experience in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, then it is ‘here and now’. A real Test of the All Blacks 2019 potential, as they face the Springboks on Saturday in Pretoria.

This is because, in 11 months, these same two rivals will open their Pool play at the rugby union pinnacle event. They play on the second day of the tournament and while that match is a battle for top-spot in Pool B, this weekend they play for both pride and for ‘potential’.

Each of the teams’ named for this final Rugby Championship match are combinations that will certainly be in contention for their respective Rugby World Cup squads. The lists are not finalized, but with the restricted numbers allowed to be included in the RWC party, places are up for grabs, combinations are to be compared and the old rivalry put to the test once again.

Real Test of All Blacks 2019 potential

Steve Hansen discusses in the above video, how the ‘combinations are to be tested’. That is both literally and metaphorically speaking. Every position is one that needs two or three potential individuals who can perform in that role. From number eight; where Kieran Read was deputized by in Argentina, with Ardie Savea playing at the back of the scrum.

Every position needs injury cover; where Brodie Retallick is missing, Scott Barrett and/or Patrick Tuipulotu are potential players who can be inserted. And where at fullback/outside back, there is a group of five players that can all be called on to run out in numbers 11,14 or 15.

The Springboks would be wanting the same policy, although, with much less success over the last few years, it is their confidence which is the real base-test. Recently appointed head coach Rassie Erasmus has a mix of experienced and fresh talent and has made an interesting selection when it comes to injury.

Springboks team coming off a huge high against All Blacks

There can be no better feeling in World Rugby, than having just come away with a win over the All Blacks. It must be a unique one too, as the World Champions have lost only a handful of times in the last six years.

Their victory in Wellington was a well-engineered win, as much of a surprise to many, as much as it proved how far along the side had progressed since 2017. In that year, the Springboks lost 57-0 in Albany, before only just losing 24-25 at home. And they had not won in New Zealand since 2009 – so the drought being broken is of real benefit to the confidence of players….and supporters.

The above team will look to make secure rare back-to-back wins over New Zealand. And at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the element of altitude will be both a blessing, but will not spring any surprises that the All Blacks are not familiar with.

The large crowd expected will also be a boost for the home team. With a poor turn out in Durban for the RSAvARG fixture, stakeholders are looking forward to a ‘sell out’. The home of the Blue Bulls is 1350 meters above sea level, and that must always be a consideration for the visitors (as well as unfamiliar Springboks players).

All Blacks team to face Springboks in Pretoria

When commentators have discussed this team, it is a consensus that it is the first-pick All Blacks starting XV. Bar three missing players; Brodie Retallick, Joe Moody and Liam Squire, it is a good team. One that must reclaim the sense of superiority over South Africa – for now, as much as in 11 months time.

Even while at altitude, every player selected apart from Karl Tu’inukuafe, has experienced playing on the ‘high veld’. While conditioning will have prepared them, the combination of the thin air, large boisterous crowd, and a more determined Springboks side emboldened by their win in Wellington…it is a true Test.

A test for The Rugby Championship. And a test for the long-term goals of 2019. So a real Test of All Blacks 2019 potential. And a real test of the team’s competency and internal confidence.

How will they go? That is questionable. When discussing the side, rugby commentator Phil Gifford spoke of how the past might be a lesson to learn. Gifford recalled how in 1965, the All Blacks were leading at halftime against the tourists. Captain Wilson Whineray was quoted as telling his team “there is not much I can say, just carry on as we’re going”. The All Blacks went on to relinquish the lead, as the Springboks won 16-19.

That example is of how any leading team cannot stick with doing the same thing.

So the All Blacks coaching group have to look for improvements every game. Have to make adjustments, so they are prepared for all situations; contingency planning for injury cover, a yellow card (or worse) and to counter a highly confident team.

This weekend, the All Blacks have to counter a more confident Springboks team. It is partly their own fault – if they had not lost in Wellington, then this fixture would have less pressure on themselves. So if the ‘stone under the towel’ which Hansen spoke of, before this group left for the all-important two-game sequence of matches, so the frustration of losing could be the best motivationfor the visitors this weekend.

But in 11 months time, both sides will need to be finalized on their squads. And be well prepared mentally, when the heat of the Rugby World Cup makes this Pool play rematch, only that much more important.

South Africa v New Zealand – Saturday, October 6. 17:05 (SA time)