CAPE TOWN - “The real opening match of the Rugby World Cup” is almost upon us, and in this SportsTalk Special episode, hosts John Robbie and Buhle Madulini and analyst Robbie Kempson, agree on one thing – it’s going to be an epic match.
"The Great Boy Louw said that when South Africa play New Zealand, consider your country at war,” said Robbie.
“It’s going to be a cracker. It’s almost a mini-World Cup final in itself, considering where both sides are at. I think Rassie (Erasmus) has done an exceptional job in making sure that the fear that we’ve had of the All Blacks is a thing of the past.”
South Africa takes on a New Zealand side that hasn’t been as strong by their standards, but the Springboks can never take the All Blacks lightly.
“I’m suspicious. There’s something going on. I don’t know what it is,” says Robbie. “The All Blacks have not been playing as well as they should have done, and they don’t seem worried about it. It’s almost as if they’ve allowed the rest of the world to catch up on the incredible style of rugby that they have. There is something they are holding back, and I don’t know what it is.”
Kempson feels the same way and believes there’s something boiling underneath that could surprise people: “I think it’s got to do with their transition to those wider players, which they haven’t quite got right. I think (Beauden) Barret is going to be instrumental in that,” he says.
The surprise omission of prop Owen Franks is curious, and has Robbie wondering what is going on. “The one player they should have wrapped in cotton wool, they packed him in a box and sent him away. That makes me suspicious,” said Robbie.
Kempson agreed with Robbie’s interpretation that the All Black would use their big men to offload into the channel for the wide players to run into. “They’ve picked a very athletic pack and I think that is the key to what they’re going to try to achieve,” Kempson said. “When we get to the playoffs they’re going to try to play the game at a different level to what most of the teams are used to.”
Weather conditions at the World Cup will come into play, and with it being humid in Japan this time of the year, teams have paid attention to ball handling in their training. “If we get a war in the trenches, a wet ball may suit our style of play. We can be much more abrasive,” said Kempson.
“The danger is if it comes to a bun fight, you have to watch those red cards,” added Robbie.
This article first appeared on EWN : South Africa v New Zealand – this is war!