• Super Springboks must bury All Blacks at Ellis Park

    The ghosts of Ellis Park must haunt another generation of All Blacks, writes Mark Keohane.

    I have the Boks to win by a South African record (versus New Zealand) of 18 points. I had the Boks to win by 8 points in the first Test a week ago and they won by 16.

    My confidence is because of the quality of the Boks match 23 and must not be interpreted as mocking the All Blacks.

    This Bok squad, with the most potent impact bench in Test rugby, has been together for five years, has won the most recent World Cup, is playing at altitude and at their most famed home ground Ellis Park, and doing so in front of 62 000 mostly fanatical Bok supporters.

    They are up against an opponent at an all-time low in results. They are also up against an All Blacks squad that is fragile, vulnerable, lacking in confidence and not very sure of how they want to play the game.

    Right in this moment Ardi Savea, Aaron Smith and Will Jordan would be the only three All Blacks I’d consider good enough to make the Springboks match day 23 that has been tasked with beating the All Blacks for a second successive Saturday.

    It wasn’t that long ago that you’d be generous in picking three Springboks in the All Blacks 23. Think Durban, 2016 and Albany, 2017. In both those Tests, a year apart, the Boks conceded 57 points, scored 15 in the Durban Test from five penalties and couldn’t buy a point in Albany.

    The Springboks’ dark days have been a black hole compared to the momentary collapse of the men in black. There was the 52-16 beating from the All Blacks at Loftus, the 45-26 defeat against the All Blacks at Loftus, the 53-3 humiliation to England at Twickenham, the 38-3 reverse to Ireland in Dublin, the 49-0 mauling from the Wallabies in Australia, many a 20-point defeats to the All Blacks in New Zealand and first up losses to Japan in the 2015 World Cup and Italy in 2016.

    The All Blacks, in their current state, are poor but the Boks, at their lowest, have been diabolical.

    And when the Boks were in free fall, it was expected that an in-form and potent All Blacks would smash them.

    They duly did, which is why the expectation has to be that a world champion outfit, with so much individual quality, has to deliver a knockout blow to the old foe on Saturday.

    No place for complacency or charity against old foe

    In my TimesLive column I wrote that the Boks must play with the ruthlessness of world champions and reserve the kindness for buying drinks afterwards.

    For all the talk about altitude, the All Blacks in the professional era have easily dealt with their lungs burning.

    The All Blacks at altitude in SA are nine from 14 since the game turned professional in 1996.

    Altitude doesn’t spook the All Blacks; Ellis Park still does.

    The All Blacks are historically five from 14 at Ellis Park, with two from seven pre-1992 and three from seven post 1992.

    Test rugby at Ellis Park is not a sporting occasion for visiting teams. It is more like a visit to the most hard-core prison and their most comforting aspect is the police escort back to the plush hotel in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

    The Boks just play with the authority and dominance that ensures another generation of All Black leaves Ellis Park spooked.

    Boks by 18! That’s my pick.

    And I’ve never written that kind of differential favouring South Africa before in previewing a Springboks and All Blacks Test.


    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years