Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

The Greatest Rivalry: Boks v All Blacks — As close as it can possibly get

Having missed out on playing each other during a Covid ruined 2020, the rivalry was reignited in Australia last year.

All indications are that Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and All Blacks at the Mbombela Stadium is going to be an incredibly tight one, with whoever the winner may be, decided by the smallest of margins.

In recent times the Boks and All Blacks rivalry has become almost too close to call, with them often being decided in the dying moments by penalty kicks.

Since the disastrous record breaking 57-0 thrashing that the All Blacks dished out against the Springboks in Albany in 2017, the games have turned into some of the most exciting meetings in recent times.

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Barring the All Blacks 23-13 win in the pool stage of the 2019 World Cup, every other game since that 2017 debacle, has been decided by just two points or less.

That record breaking loss under the coaching of Allister Coetzee, seemed to have stirred something in the Boks and they haven’t allowed the All Blacks to run away with a game again.

Springboks coach in 2017 Allister Coetzee.
Allister Coetzee, the South Africa Springboks coach, in 2017. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

Just a few weeks after the mauling in Albany, the Boks returned home and were just edged 25-24 by the All Blacks at Newlands.

In the 2018 Rugby Championship the Boks then went to Wellington in poor form, having suffered a surprising loss against Argentina in Argentina and then been narrowly beaten by Australia away.

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Rassie Erasmus, who was the coach at the time, even admitted he was prepared to walk away from the Boks if they had been beaten in that game, only for the team to upset the odds and claim a 36-34 win, breaking a six game losing streak against their rivals.

The return fixture a few weeks later at Loftus then saw the All Blacks gain revenge with a 32-30 win, while the one off Rugby Championship match between the sides in 2019 in Wellington ended in a thrilling 16-all draw.

Thrilling Rugby Championship clashes

Having missed out on playing each other during a Covid ruined 2020, the rivalry was reignited in Australia last year, as the teams battled it out in Townsville, where the All Blacks edged the game 19-17, and on the Gold Coast where the Boks emerged triumphant 31-29.

On top of all of that, the Boks have not beaten the All Blacks in South Africa since a thrilling 27-25 win during the 2014 Rugby Championship at Ellis Park.

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This weekend’s game is anything but cut and dry, even though the visitors head into the clash in the unprecedented position of having lost four of their last five games, including a series loss to Ireland in New Zealand.

The Boks themselves haven’t been in the best form, barely edging Wales in the first Test with a last gasp penalty, before losing to them for the first time ever in SA in the second Test, with a much better performance in the third Test decider then sealing the series 2-1.

If the Boks play like they did in the first Welsh Test this weekend they will most likely lose, but if they play like they did in the third Welsh Test they could pick up a win, although the All Blacks have never been more dangerous with their backs firmly up against the wall.

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