Showdown at the Ellis Park Corral

Just like at the most famous gun battle in Western history, there will not be a place for timid souls on Saturday, even on the stands and in front of our TV sets.

A colleague reminded me of the corresponding match last year, when the Springboks had to score four tries and win by a certain margin. These goals caused them to lose focus on the first goal, namely to win the match. They ended up running out of steam, and the Kiwis came from behind to win comfortably.

A lot has changed since then, and last week’s strong finish against the Wallabies was the third one this year where we came from behind to win. The high altitude of Ellis Park will be an ally on Saturday, and coupled with the exhausting amount of travelling the All Blacks have behind them, could aid the Springboks in making a huge statement in the last 20 minutes. While there is no question about the excellent conditioning of the visitors, these two factors can affect it.

The return of Bismarck to the starting line-up will not necessarily make a huge change, given the excellent form of Adriaan Strauss – the question is whether Strauss, if used as a replacement, will make the same impact as Du Plessis did last week.

Another Du Plessis who needs to up his game is Jannie. In the previous match against the All Blacks, he made 9 tackles, but missed a massive 8, and currently leads this dubious log in the competition.

We discussed the possibility of Meyer starting with Marcel van der Merwe, but the last thing you want is missed tackles from Jannie as the game draws to a close, should he replace Van der Merwe.

The continuity of starting with virtually the same side as last week, and knowing what you can expect off the bench, is probably the safest option Heyneke could employ. The possibility that Duane Vermeulen may miss the match is a huge concern, but not as big a factor as it would have been, a year ago.

English referee Wayne Barnes will be on the whistle. It will be interesting to see how Richie McCaw fares, given the interpretation of Northern Hemisphere officials of the rules at the breakdowns.

I really enjoyed reading this article by Tony Johnson, giving a New Zealand perspective on the game. Hope you do too: The biggest game of the year

Rugby Ryder Cup

The Moonstone rugby brains trust was discussing the weekend’s rugby when someone mentioned how thrilling last weekend’s golf was. The conversation switched to the possibility of the four teams currently involved in the Rugby Championship joining forces to take on a combined Six Nations team in a series of matches, home and away, with a third match on a neutral ground like Japan or America.

The standard of golf at the Ryder Cup was exceptional, and, in our view, the result of having more to play for than just individual achievement. The crowd was delirious at times, and the atmosphere electric.

Do you think it can work? We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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