New Zealand can make history on Saturday as they look for a perfect finish to this year’s Rugby Championship, while old rivals South Africa will aim to spoil the party in Durban, and avenge their earlier Round 4 loss.
The All Blacks will have plenty of motivation as they look to win their 17th match in a row. This would equal the current record set by a Tier One Nation, which was achieved twice before by the All Blacks and once by the Springboks.
In fact, in 1970 the Springboks played spoilers of history against an All Black squad that was seeking its 18th win in a row. Upsetting the record will no doubt prove a strong motivating factor for the South Africans come Saturday.
New Zealand will want to shrug off any remaining distractions coming from the suspension of starting scrumhalf Aaron Smith, due to his toilet tryst in the Christchurch airport.
Unfortunately for the Boks, however, Smith’s replacement – TJ Perenara – is certainly no slouch.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee certainly rates him very highly. “I don’t think there will be any difference. In fact, when it comes to speed of the game and support lines he runs, he is brilliant.”
Steve Hansen also knows what they are in for against their rival. “We’re expecting to be facing a very confident South African team after their win over Australia and a torrid battle against our traditional foe. We’re expecting them to throw the kitchen sink at us.”
Some other changes to the All Blacks include Waisake Naholo in for Julian Savea on the wing, Matt Todd will get the start over Ardie Savea who has been moved to the bench, while Jerome Kaino returns from a shoulder injury he sustained earlier in the competition.
As for the Springboks, Damian de Allende and Faf de Klerk return to starting duties. Morné Steyn stays at 10, and while his name might not be the most glamorous in some fans eyes, the visitors will certainly be wary as he’s broken their backs on more than one occasion.
In fact, he’s scored 124 points against them, fourth on the list of all time point scorers against New Zealand (behind Matt Burke, Matt Giteau and Michael Lynagh).
Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s match, the All Blacks can also finish the Rugby Championship with a max 30-point total from six bonus-point wins.
15 Pat Lambie, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mahoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Willie le Roux
15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 George Moala
Below is an extensive match preview from The Breakdown. Note: Perenara comes in for Smith
video credit: The Tight Five Rugby Union
photo credit: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images