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Alex Spink: In-form New Zealand are wise to South Africa’s mind games

23 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: In-form New Zealand are wise to South Africa’s mind games

Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer will hope the beers are on them, but the Mirror rugby correspondent says the All Blacks are in better nick

The picture Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer paints is of a loving relationship between the mighty rugby nations of South Africa and New Zealand.

Never mind that they are arch-rivals and the All Blacks stand between the Springboks and a place in the World Cup final, Meyer describes these Men in Black as the greatest side ever to play the game.

He also speaks fondly of Steve Hansen, his Kiwi counterpart.

Hansen, he says, always buys him a beer and offers a word of sympathy when New Zealand win.

That’s a lot of beer. South Africa have lost 10 of the last 12 meetings – six of the last seven.

Hansen laughed when asked for his reaction to Meyer’s words. The truth, he says, is slightly different.

“South Africa will come to Twickenham wanting to rip our heads off,” was how he put it.

His players, he warned, must not fall into the trap of imagining it any other way.

Both nations are two-time winners, though New Zealand have never lifted the title outside of their own country while South Africa have managed it in both hemispheres.

But on the evidence of last weekend’s quarter-finals the All Blacks approach Saturday’s showdown in better nick.

They tore France to shreds in Cardiff, scoring nine tries, while the Boks needed a late try against Wales to advance.

It should be said however that South Africa came through a brutal battle of the gain line while the Kiwis enjoyed a cakewalk, due to France being so poor.

Nonetheless, New Zealand were still hugely impressive.

It was their 12th successive World Cup victory, which ties the record.

And it confirmed what we already suspected from seeing them lose only three times since the last World Cup.

Contrast their record with that of South Africa and the difference is stark.

Meyer’s men finished bottom of the Rugby Championship without a win and started this campaign with a humiliating loss to Japan.

But the temptation to write them off must be avoided.

That loss, catastrophic though it was to the Springbok psyche, prompted a reaction which has empowered the squad.

They stared into the abyss, heard the laughter from all around the rugby world, and decided their only way out was to fight. Four wins later they are 80 minutes from the final.

All of a sudden they are a team alive with potential. Bryan Habana needs one try to surpass Jonah Lomu to become the tournament’s all-time leading try scorer.

Schalk Burger is playing like a man possessed – two years after being on his deathbed with bacterial meningitis. Fourie Du Preez is back in the form that inspired his nation to World Cup glory in 2007.

South Africa are also intent on being successful to honour a teacher and massive Springboks fan, who was murdered back home last week in horrific circumstances.

They have the power to cause New Zealand problems but Hansen’s team have a variety to their game which makes them so hard to live with.

Julian Savea is on the verge of breaking the record for most tries in a single tournament, which he currently shares on eight with Habana and Lomu.

Richie McCaw will definitely add another record to his incredible CV, by leading the All Blacks for a 12th time in World Cup history.

For all that a Boks win would be a great story – completing a rags-to-richest recovery post Japan – I just can’t see it.

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