South Africa v New Zealand, Rugby Championship
Glory awaits All Blacks at Ellis Park
ESPN Staff
October 3, 2013
Ben Smith's double against Argentina last weekend has put the All Blacks in a title-winning position © Getty Images

One round remains in the Rugby Championship and the All Blacks will have to experience one of the worst days in their illustrious history if they are to be prevented from winning their second southern hemisphere title in as many years. Their five-point lead at the top of the table should be insurmountable but the Springboks have been flirting with brilliance throughout this Championship.

It's not quite a matter of winner takes all at Ellis Park on Saturday, but the Boks will want to dent the All Blacks' seemingly unwavering confidence and form with the 2015 Rugby World Cup looming ever closer on the horizon.

In form

For the Boks, Fourie du Preez starts again after excelling against Australia last week. He is still the world's best scrum-half despite having left the cauldron of South African rugby to experience the easier, more lucrative, life in Japanese rugby over the past two seasons. The All Blacks are littered with stars from one through to 15 but Ben Smith is the man to watch. He scored two tries last weekend against the Pumas, taking his total to seven in the Championship.

The teams

  • South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Eztebeth, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen - Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Franco van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein/ Juan de Jongh
  • New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read - Replacements: Ben Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau

Out of form

Saturday's game sees the world's top two sides come up against each other, so players out of form will not be anywhere near Ellis Park. But there will be some who feel they have points to prove. Liam Messam gets the blindside shirt for the Kiwis despite Steven Luatua's rampaging form earlier in the tournament. Such is the ruthless nature of the international calendar that the Kiwis will barely have time to draw breath before heading to Europe for the end-of-year Tests. Players will feel they want to put down a marker, and Messam is one of them.

The story is the same for the Springboks. Despite Morne Steyn repeatedly proving he is one of the world's premier Test fly-halves, he still has his detractors in South Africa as some perceive him to lack the expansive game of Pat Lambie and Johan Goosen. He will want to show his capabilities to the Johannesburg crowd.

Key area to watch

When Tendai Mtwarira locks horns with Charlie Faumuina in the front-row, you feel the earth's axis will shift. It will be 116kg up against 125, a seismic battle. This will be a tight match and the Test could be dependent on getting the rub of the green from the referee. All eyes will be on Nigel Owens when it comes to those much-derided scrums, and his interpretation could prove crucial in deciding who wins this Test.


  • Ben Smith needs just one more try to beat the current record of tries scored in a Tri-Nations/ Rugby Championship campaign. Christian Cullen and Bryan Habana hold that honour with the Kiwi having scored seven back in 2000 and the South African repeating the feat in 2012.
  • Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith will play their 51st Test together as a midfield combination this weekend - a world record for a midfield partnership

Springboks players celebrate their win, South Africa v Australia, Rugby Championship, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, 28 September, 2013
The Boks lifted the Mandela Shield last weekend © Getty Images



South Africa need to score four tries and deny the All Blacks a losing bonus point if they are to win The Rugby Championship; if you fancy them to do so, bet365 is offering 13/2 on a South African win between six and 10 points. The Boks will also need a fast start, and you can get odds of 19/4 for the first scoring play to be a South Africa try. Is it mission impossible for the Boks? 7/1 is on offer for them to win the Championship.


The Springboks will win the battle but not the war. They will get their required revenge for the loss at Eden Park but it will not be enough to wrestle the Championship title from the All Blacks.

Follow live text commentary of the Test between South Africa and New Zealand on Saturday, October 5 from 3pm (GMT) , 1am (AEST, October 6), 4am (NZDT, October 6)

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