After having secured their sixth Rugby Championship title in seven years this past weekend, it would be tempting for the All Blacks to experiment against the Boks this coming Saturday, however this comes with risks acknowledges Stuff.co.nz.
Two of Stuff’s writers Tony Smith and Duncan Johnstone went “head to head” to debate whether the All Blacks should pick their strongest side for the Springboks or experiment in preparation for the future.
While Smith believes New Zealand would benefit from experimenting for the future, Johnstone argued that the All Blacks should “bring back the heavy artillery” for this weekend.
Johnstone’s argument was as follows:
The All Blacks can’t afford to mess around with the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld because there’s a double-edged sword at play here.
If New Zealand had beaten South Africa in Wellington, then a bit of experimentation would have been tempting for this test on the high veldt.
But suddenly the Boks have some spring in their step and helping their chances of consecutive wins would be a disaster for the All Blacks.
South Africa have the look of a team on the rise and will be a force at the next World Cup in Japan.
The All Blacks can’t afford to give them a sniff on Sunday (NZT).
Hansen has clearly signaled his intentions by resting skipper Kieran Read from last weekend’s test against the Pumas in Buenos Aires.
Read will be back to lead the All Blacks in Pretoria and he must have the likes of Aaron Smith and Owen Franks at his side in the starting XV. Damian McKenzie needs to be back in the mix of 23 too because his impact off the bench will be tailor-made for the hard, fast running conditions that Pretoria presents as well as countering the Boks’ long kicking game at altitude.
This is a heavyweight assignment demanding the best of the best.
The backup brigade did the All Blacks proud in Argentina. They had a tough task of their own and came away with a significant win, proving Hansen’s luxury of depth.
They righted the wobbly ship after the Wellington hiccup and ensured the All Blacks didn’t suffer rare back-to-back defeats against a pumped Pumas outfit in a hostile environment.
Now the Boks shape as an even tougher test in an even more demanding setting.
Let’s not forget the South Africans are coming off a weekend win of their own, a comfortable victory over the Wallabies that will only add to their building confidence.
The All Blacks have a made a habit of securing tight wins in South Africa over recent years, often in thrilling point-for-point exchanges.
They’ve seen South Africa as a perfect setting to steel their mental approach for the pressure-cooker situations that the knockout phase of the World Cup presents.
The All Blacks need a win for the good of themselves and to put a dent in the bolshie Boks. This is a job for the true First XV.
To read Smith’s counter visit Stuff.co.nz