Boks rel­ish All Blacks test

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — South Africa and New Zealand will re­new one of the great­est and most bit­ter ri­val­ries in rugby in their World Cup semi­fi­nal at Twick­en­ham on Satur­day but off the field, the coaches and play­ers re­main firm friends.

For both na­tions, the game pro­vides the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge on a rugby pitch and in the adrenalin-pump­ing at­mos­phere of a high stakes show­down at such a pres­ti­gious venue, it prom­ises to be an­other bruis­ing bat­tle.

How­ever, be­hind the in­ten­sity and bonecrunch­ing tack­les is a mu­tual re­spect be­tween the teams on the pitch that has in more re­cent years ex­tended to solid friend­ships off it.

None more so than be­tween the two coaches; New Zealand’s Steve Hansen and South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer.

“When you play teams you know re­ally well and you’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship it brings a lit­tle bit more to it,” Hansen told re­porters.

“It’s like play­ing your brother or your sis­ter and you don’t want to lose, par­tic­u­larly if you’re the younger sib­ling.

“We re­ally en­joy their com­pany. They play hard on the track but they’re good men off it. Heyneke drives that. He’s the leader of their ship and I’ve got a lot of re­spect for him.”

Meyer is equally ful­some in his praise of his All Blacks coun­ter­part, who sent him a mes­sage of sup­port af­ter the Boks were stunned by Ja­pan in their open­ing World Cup match.

“Steve is a qual­ity man,” Meyer said. “We are all un­der pres­sure. Only one coach will win it and the rest will prob­a­bly be fired or will be un­der pres­sure in their coun­tries.

“We’ve tried to bring the ethos back in rugby. Al­though we kill each other on the field, as coaches we can sup­port each other.”

New Zealand have a 59 per­cent win ra­tio against the Spring­boks over their past 90 meet­ings, im­pres­sive enough but com­fort­ably their low­est against any na­tion.

They have beaten their other south­ern hemi­sphere ri­vals Aus­tralia 70 per­cent of the time and the av­er­age against all teams stands at an eye-pop­ping 78 per­cent.

In World Cup matches, South Africa edge the head-to-head, in­clud­ing a fa­mous 15-12 ex­tra-time fi­nal vic­tory in 1995.

Since then they have also beaten New Zealand to third place at the tour­na­ment in 1999 with a 22-18 suc­cess but were com­fort­ably beaten 29-9 in the quar­ter-fi­nals in Aus­tralia four years later.

More re­cently, the All Blacks have held sway, hav­ing won 10 of the last 12 meet­ings be­tween the sides, in­clud­ing a 27-20 suc­cess at El­lis Park in July.

Mean­while, there is noth­ing more spe­cial for a Spring­bok than to play the All Blacks, and to square off against the Old En­emy in a World Cup semi-fi­nal is just about as good as it gets for a South African, bar beat­ing them in the fi­nal.

That is the view of Spring­bok open­side flank Fran­cois Louw, who says the Boks can’t wait to play an op­po­nent they re­spect enor­mously but do not fear.

“We watched the All Blacks de­mol­ish­ing France in the quar­ter­fi­nal on Satur­day with some in­ter­est,” Louw said. “It was a great per­for­mance but they were al­ways go­ing to be favourites against a trou­bled French side. I must ad­mit, I though France would put up more of a fight. I am sur­prised they lost so heav­ily, not to take any­thing away from the All Blacks.”

Louw said the Boks did not watch the game in trep­i­da­tion but with grow­ing ex­cite­ment.

“The All Blacks are our tra­di­tional foe, we love play­ing against them,” he said. “It is the dream of ev­ery boy grow­ing up in South Africa to score a try against the All Blacks to win the game, and we have all beaten the All Blacks in child­hood games in our back­yard.

“We al­ways knew that we would have to beat the best to win the World Cup and it so hap­pens that we are to cross paths with the world’s No1 ranked team in the semi-fi­nals,” he said. “For us it is a derby game against our big­gest ri­vals on the great­est stage in rugby – a sold-out Twick­en­ham, with the stakes enor­mous. They des­per­ately want to ad­vance to the fi­nal, so do we.”

Louw said that while the play­ers were cel­e­brat­ing the vic­tory over Wales last Satur­day evening, they were al­ready qui­etly talk­ing about the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge that lies ahead this week­end.

“There are go­ing to be a lot of nerves from both sides,” Louw said. “Both sides know each other’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. They won’t write us off and will be as ex­cited about the game as we are. There is a per­sonal ri­valry be­tween the teams that adds some­thing ex­tra, and I know they feel the same way.”

Louw was re­spon­si­ble for one of the Boks’ two se­ri­ous in­juries that came out of the hard-fought game against Wales, hav­ing ac­ci­dently stood on the hand of hooker Bis­marck du Plessis, who sus­tained a se­ri­ous lac­er­a­tion in the first half and was off the field for 15 min­utes be­fore re­turn­ing, only to be per­ma­nently subbed by Adri­aan Strauss early in the sec­ond half.

Team doc­tor Craig Roberts said that he had stitched up Du Plessis’ hand but the hooker was in too much pain, and had to come off.

“Bis­marck’s hand is swollen and very sore but the good news is that a lot of heal­ing could hap­pen be­tween now and Satur­day,” Roberts said. “I think what will hap­pen is that the coach will name a team with brack­ets around cer­tain play­ers, and then make a call late in the week.”

The other player likely to be brack­eted when the team is an­nounced is the young rev­e­la­tion Lood de Jager. He suf­fered an in­jured ten­don in the foot and, like­wise, will be given the whole week to re­cover. De Jager was in­jured early in the game and showed great courage to play through the in­jury, but yes­ter­day he was in a lot of pain, the swelling hav­ing set in.

“Ob­vi­ously we don’t want to lose either player,” said Louw. “They are both in ex­cel­lent form. Bis­marck has come a long way this sea­son and, over­all, his record speaks for it­self.

Lood has made a huge step up in a vi­tal po­si­tion at No5 lock, where he is re­spon­si­ble for call­ing the line-outs. He does not even do that for the Chee­tahs.” — IOL

Fran­cois Louw swings the ball as SA bat­tle old foes New Zealand in this file photo.

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