Springboks vs All Blacks: An Epic Encounter Awaits

Springboks vs All Blacks: An Epic Encounter Awaits

The 2015 Rugby World Cup is in its final stages, with the semi-finals taking place this coming weekend. Argentina will be taking on Australia, while South Africa face defending champions New Zealand.

The all southern hemisphere final four is an indication of the strength present in the region from a rugby perspective, as no European teams have managed to remain until the semi-final stage, despite the competition taking place in England.

The Springboks are Africa’s pride from a rugby perspective, having previously won the World Cup on two occasions, in 1995 and 2007, and they are aiming to take the title once again this year in an effort to become the first nation to win three World Cup titles.

The All Blacks will be standing in their way at Twickenham in London. The defending world champions are also aiming to be the first nation to take three titles in the sport’s flagship competition, and in their current form as the top ranked team in rugby, they are expected to progress to the final.

Fierce Rivalry

But the Springboks have often caused their fierce rivals problems, and many pundits believe that the South Africans may have what it takes to surprise the New Zealand outfit, especially considering the psychological edge that the Springboks would have as the underdogs – a situation they often thrive on.

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The All Blacks have been in scintillating form during this competition, defeating everyone in their path and playing incredible running rugby throughout the campaign. It also seems as though they are gaining momentum, displaying a near flawless effort against France in the quarter-final with a 62-13 victory over a team that have been a problem for the All Blacks in the past.

The Springboks in comparison have not been as excellent from the get go, but after an early setback with a shock defeat to Japan, the South Africans put their best foot forward and ensured that they would not underestimate any opponent, winning four tests in a row to reach this stage, including a hard fought victory over a tricky Welsh 23-19 in their quarter-final.

But both teams are aware that a difficult match awaits, and neither are willing to take a victory for granted, as this rivalry, which is present each year in the Rugby Championship, is set to be a high pressure encounter for both selections.

The Springboks have opted to field an unchanged starting 15 from the side that emerged victorious against Wales last Saturday, but they will be sweating on the fitness of Lood de Jager, who has been a revelation during the tournament, as he is trying desperately to shake off a foot injury in order to contribute on Saturday.

Victor Matfield is on the bench in case he needs to replace the lock during the game, as De Jager will have a later fitness test to determine whether he will be able to play or not. Bismarck du Plessis suffered a gash on his hand in the last game, but is also set to be available for the All Black clash.

Referee and Discipline

As a tight affair is likely to take place on Saturday, the discipline of the players and the decisions of referee Jerome Garces will be crucial in deciding its outcome, as penalties will be an important factor that will see Handre Pollard and Dan Carter aiming to win the test for their respective sides.

South African fans will be thinking about the last time the Springboks were in the knockouts in the previous World Cup, as the 2011 competition saw the South Africans knocked out by Australia in the quarter-final following very poor refereeing by Bryce Lawrence which provided the Aussies with the key points to narrowly defeat a strong Bok team. Springbok fans will be hoping that Garces performs far better under the pressure of a semi-final.

This semi-final is tantamount to a final, as these two teams seem prepared to go all the way, and the victor of this epic encounter could very well prove to be the eventual champion come October 31, as Australia and Argentina would certainly be a tough nut to crack, but this coming match would seem to be the more difficult test for both the All Blacks and the Springboks.