Apparently the All Blacks have a lack of desire and that means the Springboks will win the test in Cape Town this weekend.
That’s the theory doing the rounds in South Africa, promoted by respected local rugby pundit Mark Keohane.
In his latest column veteran scribe Keohane senses – he does clarify that by calling himself “eternally optimistic” – a real opportunity for the Boks to embarrass a team who have won every Rugby Championship match this year and already has the title sewn up. That success, in a nutshell, is the All Blacks’ Achilles heel for this match.
“But … and here’s the but … it will be more because of New Zealand’s lack of desire than anything else should the Boks win.
“The occasion is all set up for a South African victory. The desperation is with South Africa. The match is an ‘after the fact’ test for the All Blacks. They’ve already won the Rugby Championship and the bigger picture for Steve Hansen is the end of year tour to the Northern Hemisphere.
“There’s also the irritation of playing another ‘after the fact’ test against the Wallabies in the guise of a Bledisloe Cup match that the All Blacks have also already won this year.”
“How does a player get up for a match in a competition that has already been won? The intention will always be to put everything on the line but the mindset is always different from a player when there is nothing to win.
“The All Blacks, without question the greatest team in the modern era and the most dominant international sports team of the last decade, have proved to be at their most vulnerable in these so called dead rubbers.
“The All Blacks, in all their test matches this season, have also looked decidedly disinterested once the match seemingly has been won, which in many instances in this Rugby Championship season has been within 30 minutes of kick-off.”
Keohane chose to brush aside New Zealand’s 57-15 win over the Boks in Durban in the championship finale last year and the rampant 57-0 win over South Africa last month.
“There have been so many indifferent and ordinary halves in between that there is a very good possibility that the All Blacks at Newlands will be nowhere near as potent as the black tidal wave that crushed the Springboks in Albany.”
Keohane’s article also took another desperate edge, turning to historical statistics and averages to back up his optimism.
“If not a rare Springboks success against the men in black on Saturday, then when? Everything points to this being the day for the men in green and gold. The averages suggest that the Boks are due a win because they’ve only had one in the last 11, and the trend in the last five years would indicate that South Africa poaches a win every six tests against the All Blacks.
“There has been enough about the All Blacks this year to give teams of reasonable quality hope that they can be beaten. But it requires everything to go the way of the team wanting to beat the All Blacks.
“Teams that want to beat the All Blacks have to nail try-scoring opportunities and kick points on offer because even when the All Blacks don’t play well they can still conjure up 20 points in a few minutes.”
Keohane was adamant the Boks needed the win more than the All Blacks and that had to be borne out in performance.
“The edge in intensity has to come from South Africa, and I believe it will. This will be just another game of rugby for the All Blacks but for the Springboks playing careers and coaching careers could be on the line,” he wrote on Sport24.
“There will be little consequence to the All Blacks if they lose. Not so the Springboks.
“It may be clutching at straws, but straws are all I have when assessing the possibilities of a Springboks win.
“If this was the Rugby Championship decider I’d never even contemplate the possibility of the Springboks getting a win, but it’s not a championship decider.”