The Springboks should focus on playing the team in front of them rather than the rich legacy of the All Blacks jersey in the Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.
“The Springboks are favourites and it seems to have scared so many South African supporters on social media,” wrote Mark Keohane in his TimesLive column.
“It would appear South African rugby supporters love the tag of underdog because with it comes no expectation. In this instance there is no way the Boks can claim to be the underdogs, and neither should their supporters lean on such a crutch.”
While the Springboks go into the Test match at Mbombela Stadium looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Wales, the All Blacks face the arduous task of bouncing back from a historic series loss to Ireland and four defeats in the past five Tests when they line up for two successive matches against the Boks in the Republic.
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“The Boks, as a unit, have never been more settled and the All Blacks have rarely been such a shambles,” Keohane wrote. “The New Zealand TAB, since its inception, has in 339 All Blacks matches only ever on three occasions listed the opposition as favourites to beat the All Blacks. All three times, the matches were in SA (1998 and 2009) and on all three occasions the bookies were right and the All Blacks lost.
“The New Zealand TAB has the Springboks favourites to beat the All Blacks on Saturday. It is just the fourth time in 340 matches they have not backed the All Blacks to be winners and they’ve never been wrong when backing against the All Blacks.
“To quote Rassie Erasmus’ speech to the players on the eve of the 2019 World Cup quarterfinal against Japan: ‘Take them to the gutters as all they want to do is go to the dance floor — and they can dance … But they don’t like the gutters.’
“These All Blacks forwards don’t have the collective mongrel to be in the gutters. They lack the pedigree of the game’s best, Richie McCaw, and if the Boks play what is in front of them, which is a limited team, and not the legacy of the black jersey, they should win well.”
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