Ellis Park a potent plus for Springboks

3 October 2013

The Springboks need to beat the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday, scoring at least four tries while restricting the Kiwis to not more than three, in order to win the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. A bridge too far for the South Africans? Maybe not.

While the All Blacks are the reigning world champions and in a prime position to claim the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, their record at Ellis Park is unimpressive: in 11 tests at the Johannesburg venue, the Springboks have won eight times to the Kiwis’ three wins.

While some may consider a victory with a four-try bonus point too much to ask, the Springboks have done even more in their last two tests against New Zealand at the ground, running in 11 tries and scoring at least 40 points in successive victories.

In August 2004, the Springboks won 40-26, with Marius Joubert dotting down three times, as the Boks crossed the try line five times, while in 2000 they won 46-40, scoring six tries, including two each for Werner Swanepoel and Robbie Fleck.

So, maybe, South Africa winning with a bonus point is not as far-fetched as some may think.

Classic clash

With the title on the line, the All Blacks’ controversial 29-15 win in Auckland during which Bismarck du Plessis was incorrectly shown a red card (as admitted by the International Rugby Board), and a massive crowd expected at a ground that has been somewhat of a bogey venue for the New Zealand, a classic clash is on the cards.

Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, who made his debut in the green and gold in June 2008 against Wales in Pretoria, will play in his 50th test for the Springboks, joining his fellow front rankers, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, and Morne Steyn, who all reached the milestone this season.

Mtawarira will also become the fifth prop to achieve the feat behind Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde, Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis.

‘A wonderful achievement’

“What a wonderful achievement for Beast,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement on Wednesday.

“He is someone who doesn’t speak a lot, but you know he always gives everything he has for the Springbok jersey. It’s always good to see hard work and dedication pay off like this.”

There are two changes to the Springbok team that beat Australia by 28-8 in Cape Town last weekend, as well as one possible late change.

Rotation

Up front, Bismarck du Plessis rotates with Adriaan Strauss at hooker, while Juandre Kruger comes in at lock for Flip van der Merwe. The uncapped Franco van der Merwe has been selected on the bench.

In the backline, JJ Engelbrecht is bracketed at outside centre with Jan Serfontein, while Juan de Jongh will come onto the bench if needed.

“We will give JJ all the time he needs to fully recover from his quad muscle injury, but if he can’t make it, Jan will start with Juan on the bench,” explained Meyer.

Locks

“Juandre will slot in without any difficulty as he’s been part of the squad since day one and I’m very pleased for Franco, who has been training with us for more than a year already.

“Franco’s attitude since day one has been fantastic. He’s waited patiently and always stayed positive, which is what we as a team stand for. On Saturday, he could make his debut against New Zealand in front of his home crowd at Ellis Park.”

SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby