Written by Will Davies | From WSJ
New Zealand’s All Blacks don’t lose rugby matches very often, particularly when playing at home in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The rare defeats tend to come at the hands of South Africa, the All Blacks’ opponent in round four of the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
While most nations can only dream of beating the All Blacks, South Africa’s Springboks have won against them 34 times. New Zealand has dominated in recent decades and still has the edge in the head-to-heads, with 50 victories, but the win percentage of 57% is its lowest against anyone.
South Africa also is in the minority in beating New Zealand on its own turf. The All Blacks have won their last 35 home tests, which is far and away an international record and at least 13 more than any other nation has managed, Opta Sports says.
Their last loss in New Zealand came exactly five years ago. The opponent was South Africa, which departed Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on Sept. 12, 2009, with a 32-29 win and the Tri-Nations title. Several players from that team are in the current squad and they can use that winning experience as encouragement for this weekend’s encounter. The problem is their spirits have taken a hit in the years since.
South Africa has lost to the All Blacks in New Zealand five times in a row, conceding an average of four tries a game. The Springboks have also never won in five attempts at the venue for Saturday’s match: Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, which is also known as the Cake Tin.
New Zealand is the world’s top team and is unbeaten in 20 matches, home and away. South Africa, which is No. 2 in the world rankings, lost as recently as last weekend, when Australia mounted a late comeback to win 24-23 in Perth. In the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship, the Springboks only just avoided losing to Argentina, a nation that hasn’t yet won a match in the history of the tournament, which is now in its fourth year. Argentina plays Australia in Saturday’s other match.
New Zealand has won all three Rugby Championship titles and is top of the table this year, with 12 points from two wins and a draw.
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