Big two poised to reignite game’s great­est ri­valry

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union -

even weari­ness. This Satur­day, though, is dif­fer­ent.

What­ever the mer­its of Italy, Namibia and Canada in Pool B, the two coun­tries will al­most cer­tainly qual­ify for the knock­out stages. But there will be a notch on the belt for the win­ner; a pat on the shoul­der for the in­ner man to bol­ster the psy­che for fu­ture times.

It has al­ways been this way. New Zealand have be­come far more con­spic­u­ous since the game went pro­fes­sional – buffed and boosted by mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives. The glitz, though, has sub­stance and the All Blacks be­came by far the stronger en­tity, over­turn­ing South Africa’s long-held ad­van­tage.

Pre-pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the mid-nineties, the Boks led the se­ries, 21-18. By the 1956 tour of New Zealand, the All Blacks had never won a se­ries against the Spring­boks. The last meet­ing be­tween the sides had been in 1949, when New Zealand had been beaten 4-0; their man­hood ques­tioned as the Spring­boks scrum drove them into the ground.

It is a pool match in name only – a game that will res­onate be­yond the con­fines of the tour­na­ment

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