Springboks full of belief for all-in trial of strength

The shuddering impact of bodies involved in high-speed collisions will be felt far beyond Dunedin's Carisbrook stadium. They do not call this place "The House of Pain" without good reason and do not get the top two teams in the world face to face here every week.

It was a surprise, therefore, that yesterday they were still trying to flog the last couple of thousand tickets in a stadium able to hold only 30,000.

It is extraordinary, given that this is the rugby international of 2005. This match represents the quintessential sporting contest, and is certain to be as gladiatorial as they come.

The relish with which Schalk Burger sought out Jerry Collins as the target of his bullocking runs in Cape Town three weeks ago was positively evil. It will be arguably harder in Dunedin tonight.

These Springboks have a chance of a unique trinity of achievements: the first South African side ever to win in Dunedin (they have been trying for 84 years); the first South African team to retain their Tri-Nations title and the first to beat the All Blacks in three successive Test matches for yonks.

The Springboks should believe in themselves. They have a forward pack of considerable might and much skill. Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are the No 1 lock pairing in world rugby not just because they secure their own possession, but because they offer a serious threat to opposition ball. The front row has started to gel now that C J van der Linde is at tight head, and the back row has excelled individually in this competition, if not always collectively.

I am slightly surprised Jake White retained both his half-backs but White has reasoned that Andre Pretorius offers the better kicking option. And kicking is sure to be important tonight, both out of the hand by Pretorius and to goal by Percy Montgomery. This is a match that could go to the wire, and a single goal-kick might mean the difference between triumph and tears.

Nor should the dew factor on a Dunedin winter night be overlooked. Even seasoned All Blacks admit it can be devilishly difficult holding the ball in such conditions, making the chances of an open running game less likely.

De Wet Barry's inclusion at inside centre with the creative Jean de Villiers moved out to the wing signified the South African approach: keep it tight, drive the ball forward, give the pack a target on which to advance and aim at the inexperienced New Zealand half-backs, Piri Weepu and Leon MacDonald.

Physicality is the key to this encounter and quite probably world rugby of the future. The Australia coach Eddie Jones alluded to it this week when he told me: "The game is going back to 1998 when it had such a problem at the breakdown. The breakdown today is like a wrestling match and most players are offside.

"It has become a question just of strength, not skill. And having the ball now for much more than three phases is a liability. There are turnovers and you can concede tries no matter where you are on the field."

But it is the power element that, Jones fears more than most, is starting to dominate the modern game. And when it comes to immense strength few countries are better equipped in that respect than South Africa.

Only New Zealand, who can boast some heavy-hitting players like Jerry Collins, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu, can hope to match them at present in the world game. It means the Springboks can look ahead with optimism as they survey the next two years leading up to the 2007 World Cup.

Indeed, that event is likely to be more of a gladiatorial encounter than the game has known. Men like Jones believe that even the French, traditionally a land of hard rugby players, might struggle to match the physicality of the southern hemisphere. His words were confirmed when South Africa beat France in the recent two-match Test series, in Durban and Port Elizabeth in June.

"Countries that rely on native skill but are not as powerful, may struggle in the future" says the Wallaby coach. "It is the big strong sides like South Africa and New Zealand who will prosper."

The former All Black great Colin Meads admits his concern at whether New Zealand is ready to handle this intensity. "The Lions tour was hopeless for us, it was so easy it gave us a completely false impression of how good we are" he said.

New Zealand should know more by tonight.

Victory for South Africa would cap an extraordinary 18 months for White. His impact as national coach has been immense and to land these achievements that dangle enticingly before his men, would be proof positive that South African rugby is definitely on the up.

The prize awaiting the 'Boks is great. Unfortunately, the team standing between them and glory is pretty special, too.

New Zealand (probable): A Woodcock; K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, A Williams; J Collins, R McCaw; R So'oialo, P Weepu, L MacDonald, J Rokocoko, A Mauger, T Umaga, R Gear, M Muliaina. Replacements: D Witcombe, G Somerville, J Ryan, S Lauali, K Senio, L McAlister, D Howlett.

South Africa (probable): O du Randt; J Smit, C J van der Linde, B Botha, V Matfield, J Smith; S Burger, J van Niekerk; E Januarie, A Pretorius, B Habana, D Barry, J Fourie, J de Villiers, P Montgomery. Replacements: H Shimange, E Andrews, A van den Berg, J Cronje, F du Preez, J van den Westhuyzen, M Joubert.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

Suggested Topics
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum