RUSS Petty (@RPetty80) takes a look at the mouthwatering semi-final showdown between New Zealand and South Africa on Saturday from Twickenham.
New Zealand v South Africa | Saturday 16.00 | ITV1
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said this week that New Zealand were ‘the best team that has ever played the game’. His opposite number hasn’t bought that attempt at flattery and replied by saying that he still expects the Springboks to try and ‘rip our heads off’.
The All Blacks squad named for this semi-final contains 1318 total caps and an average win rate of 90% per player. Seven of the starting team begun the 2011 World Cup final and the side has won 47 of their 52 games since that home tournament victory.
They’ve beaten old rivals South Africa in 10 of the previous 12 matches and it should be noted that in both those losses they were without Ma’a Nonu and had an inexperienced fly-half starting (Colin Slade in 2011 and Beauden Barrett last year). With Dan Carter at 10, Nonu at 12 and Conrad Smith at 13, New Zealand have won eight of nine games against this opposition by an average score of 29-13.
The Boks don’t have that same experience in key positions – with 21-year-old Handre Pollard, 23-year-old Damian de Allende and 21-year-old Jesse Kriel starting in their midfield. Nor can they boast the same good form as their opponents, having lost to Ireland, Wales, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Japan in the last 12 months.
From 2010-2013, the Boks had an average losing margin of 16 points against this opposition. That has improved recently with the last two losses coming by four and seven points and a two-point victory last year.
Meyer has claimed this is the best bench he has ever selected and based on previous trends in the fixture, he will need his replacements to shine.
The last time South Africa outscored New Zealand in the final quarter of a contest was 14 matches ago, in August 2009. They’ve lost the second half in 17 of 20 meetings since 2007. In the games since 2012, the All Blacks have edged the second half by 8, 20, 7,5,5,6 and 7 points.
When South Africa won 18 of 20 games from November 2012 – August 2014, they had a second half difference of 8 points. In the next 12 matches leading into this tournament that dropped to -1 though, with conditioning and a lack of composure blamed. Those are both areas of strength for New Zealand, who have conceded just 24 points in total after the break in their previous six matches.
New Zealand -4 second half handicap would have won in all seven games against South Africa since 2012 and 15/20 over a longer period.
New Zealand v South Africa – New Zealand -4 second-half handicap (20/21 888)