Tony McKeever

Springboks vs All Blacks…October 23

It is a very distinct possibility that the next time the Springboks meet the All Blacks, following the August 20 game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will be at the 60 000-seater Eden Park in Auckland on October 23 at 9pm.

The Rugby World Cup starts in two weeks and all the national sides announce their squads this week and then depart for their bases in New Zealand.

The aspirant winners of the Rugby World Cup are the All Blacks, Australia, South Africa and England. Especially England, as they desire to defend the World Cup in 2015 in Twickenham.

Now this is where it really starts to get interesting and emotional as these men of rugby representing their countries are fuelled by the emotion of the crowds and supporters.

Never before have we witnessed such collective and vocal fervour for the Springbok side than that displayed by the Springbok supporters in Port Elizabeth this past Saturday for 80 minutes.

It was a stirring occasion and the significance and potency of a home crowd became evident when the 48 000-strong spectators sang the South African national anthem like no other collective grouping before. It was powerful and emotional and was definitely the trigger that fuelled the Springboks win over the All Blacks, so much so, that they did a lap of appreciation to a stadium of supporters that refused to leave until the lights were switched out.

Following the singing of the national anthems of South Africa and New Zealand the custom is the Kiwis line up for the Haka to motivate themselves and intimidate the opposition. At the last Bok All Black Test in New Zealand, the Haka is amplified with strategically placed mikes to boom around the stadium.

Not so in PE. Never before has there been such a potent antidote to the Haka as the “ole ole ole” chant by the crowd that so neutralised the war dance — it made it seem like some playground routine with nary a boo, peep or hiss from the All Blacks.

The psychological and strategic approach of the Springboks and the All Blacks was a study in contrasts this past week.

The Springboks were meeting with wives and girlfriends at the airport and home base at the Garden Court and poor Peter de Villiers and John Smit and team mates were trotted out for appearances, interviews and speeches every day, at dinners, at breakfasts around PE in advance of the Saturday Test match. Just like hired entertainment.

Contrast that with the quiet, demure and focussed approach of the All Blacks ensconced at the Radisson Hotel with their focus and energy on just the Saturday game, the training and their hotel. It was a controlled measured and professional approach that should have us worried.

In two weeks the Rugby World Cup starts and this is the last time New Zealand could ever hope to host a Rugby World Cup, in spite of 200 000 tickets being unsold as of today.

They are at home and I am sure, unless another team complains of an unfair technological advantage, the stadium microphones will be there to amplify the Haka each time the All Blacks play.

The world’s top rugby unions are going to New Zealand with aspirations and hopes to excel at the Rugby World Cup and no doubt there will be upsets great and small, but New Zealand have readied themselves for this for the past five years and they are ready.

This will be a cracker tournament.

Proud Rugby Nations and their players and coaches are all under intense scrutiny.

Who will survive and who will be the casualties.

How time flies with rugby!