Twickenham, Saturday 16:00
In our tortured analogy of the Rugby World Cup being like an all-day drinking session, following the early evening pints with chasers that was the quarter finals, we now head into the too bloated for booze, get me a scotch stage that is the semis. First up is the great black tide of ruthless proficiency vs the damp green blanket of blunted adventure.
New Zealand make one change to the team that so comprehensively dismembered France last week. While it must be noted that the France team had gone into full-on system crash mode and were in reality awaiting a post Rugby World Cup reboot, the All Blacks performance was up there with some of the best sporting performances ever; up there with Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 or Ronnie O’Sullivan’s five minute 147 levels of class. That fifteen players managed to acheive this simultaneously is even more remarkable and they won’t do it again. The worry for South Africa is that even if New Zealand perform to only seventy percent of last week’s effort they will still win with some ease.
This Boks outfit is not a great one. If only their on field exploits could match Heynecke Meyer’s full-on glass coach’s box of emotion performances they would be storming this tournament. However, they are instead looking a decent in a lumpen sort of way; not much craft, even less guile, but some big lads, decent carriers in De Allende and Kriel and, of course, Schalk Burger. But that won’t be enough.
If New Zealand win this match then it will be their 13th triumph on the trot in the Rugby World Cup. It will be unlucky 13 for South Africa.
B&M Prediction: New Zealand by 12
Spotter’s Badge: Sonny Bill Williams meat and two veg visible through those tiniest of shorts that he wears. Seriously, he must have to be sewn into those bad boys.
South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (captain); Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw; Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Victor Matfield, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein
New Zealand: Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read; Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Julian Savea, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.