Rugby: Stakes high in Boks game

By Campbell Burnes

Defeat for either side will make a place in the semifinals that much tougher to achieve

NZ's Jackson Garden-Bachop. Photo / Brett Phibbs
NZ's Jackson Garden-Bachop. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Tonight's New Zealand-South Africa Pool C clash in Albany assumes critical importance.

Defeat for either side will make the road to the semifinals very challenging. The three pool winners advance as does the team with the next-highest competition points.

New Zealand have made just two changes to the starting XV, with Blues players Simon Hickey, the captain, and Tevita Li slotting into the No10 and 11 jerseys respectively. The home side should not have any problems on attack, but they will need to be tighter defensively. South Africa's lineout drive will need to be nullified as will the boot of first-five and captain Handre Pollard.

South Africa did score nine tries against Scotland but still kicked a lot, so New Zealand assistant coach Scott Robertson is not expecting anything radical from the Junior Boks.

"They have got a really simple but effective style of play. They are traditional the way they approach it with their drive and kick game. For us, we just have to nail the basics.

"There's a test match atmosphere about our preparation."

New Zealand have the luxury of a full squad of 28.

South Africa, however, have been disrupted by three injuries. Second-five Andre Esterhuizen has been ruled out with concussion, while two others have ankle injuries, including flanker Jacques Vermeulen.

"We know that playing New Zealand on their home ground and in front of their own fans will be a massive challenge for us," said Junior Boks coach Dawie Theron.

"They did well against a very powerful Samoan side while we had to work hard and are pleased with our win over Scotland, so it's going to be a really good contest."

New Zealand have been a pool-play bully during the Junior World Championship, having dropped just one match since 2008, against Wales in 2012. That record will undergo a severe examination tonight.

Perhaps they will take some inspiration out of yesterday's lunch with the All Blacks, where Hickey and hooker Hame Faiva would have caught up with 2013 JWC teammate lock Patrick Tuipulotu, now poised for his test debut.

- NZ Herald

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