Rugby’s arch-rivals, the All Blacks and the Springboks, meet in Auckland on Saturday (Sept 14), with the Rugby Championship up for grabs.
Just last week most people had consigned the championship to history, chalking up another All Black triumph.
After all they had dominated the Wallabies in the opening two matches, whereas the Springboks had beaten Argentina twice, but had struggled in the second game.
Then last Saturday (Sept 8) the Boks blasted the Wallabies 38-12—winning in Brisbane for the first time since 1971.
The sides began the game evenly matched, but the Boks left in triumph and the Wallabies in tatters, almost literally.
Meanwhile, the all conquering All Blacks stumbled to a 28-13 win over Argentina in Hamilton.
Records to break
Now the resurgent Boks head to Eden Park, where the All Blacks have been unbeaten for 19 years.
Auckland sportswriter Chris Rattue predicts a Springboks victory, though his view is far from universal.
The Springboks looked almost unbeatable—even by the All Blacks—when they played the Wallabies, earning their ninth consecutive Test win.
Despite their record, the Springboks have a problem with consistency.
All Black prop Charlie Faumuina, 26, said Argentina had the toughest scrum he had encountered in his 10 Tests.
So the poor performance may have been better than it looked.
Whoever wins, records will be broken—and the winner will have one hand holding the RC trophy.
The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since 1994, winning 31 successive Tests, including the 2011 World Cup final.
The Springboks want to win their tenth consecutive Test match—and reclaim their former dominance over the All Blacks.
But the Boks have not won at Eden Park since 1937 and have not won in New Zealand since 2009.
Boks coach Heyneke Meyer has satisfied his high-marking doubters, bringing tears of joy—and redemption—to the cheeks of passionate Springboks fans.
Only a week ago, Meyer represented an outdated, forward-dominating, set-piece focussed style, that was relevant in the past, but not today.
Now he is the man who brought Springboks-style rugby back into fashion—while scoring four tries to none against the running-rugby focussed Wallabies.
One week ago the All Blacks had the RC title in the bag—and were streets ahead of all other international sides.
Since then they showed vulnerabilities against the Pumas, and probably lost the scrum battle.
The older, experienced players are under some criticism, and captain Richie McCaw is out following an injury against Argentina.
The Boks forwards operate as a brutal pack, but have a youthful, exuberant air. They force other sides to counter them in the scrum, a move that suits the new, stricter scrum laws.
Last week in Brisbane the Boks looked like men playing boys against the Wallabies. On Saturday they meet the world champions.
Can the Springboks win at Eden Park for the first time since 1937? They can but I don’t think they will.
Wallabies vs Pumas
Just a week ago, Australia seemed to be improving. Now it’s possible that the Wallabies will lose to Argentina in Perth on Saturday.
The scrum, in particular, was frail. Argentina’s scrum is their strength.
Argentina play a man-on-man, confrontational style that may unsettle the shell-shocked Wallabies.
Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie has only had three games—two losses to the All Blacks then the loss to South Africa.
While supporters aren’t calling for his head, many are mocking him—particularly after the inept performance against the Springboks.
Peter Lalanabaravi is a rugby writer with over 30 years experience.