OPINION: It does appear that the selection of Johan Goosen in the No 10 jersey for the Springboks has changed the mood of a nation.
The previous calls for the return of Peter de Villiers to the coaching ranks and the increased sales of fishing rods have quickly diminished with the replacement of Morne Steyn by Goosen in this influential role.
Not since the multilingual and lateral thinking Nick Mallett coached the Boks to a record 17 straight wins does it appear that such a brave and far sighted selection has taken place.
To the average Kiwi this was an obvious choice, selecting a youngster with a talent to attack and an all-round vision for the game. The only question was why it had taken so long?
One thing is for sure, new coach Heyneke Meyer must have agonised at length in replacing Steyn, who not only won test matches through his goalkicking but has directed a powerful forward pack around the field with the skill of a Bennie Osler or Naas Botha, legends of past eras in the South African game.
Whether or not Meyer is convinced that he has made the correct choice remains to be seen. This is a country which has been most successful operating a plan based on physical domination and pressure, as well as the theory of running through the defender rather than passing or running around him.
To win against an out-of-sorts Australia mob is a far easier exercise than trying to out-muscle the mighty All Blacks.
Of course, the All Blacks will not receive the same gift-wrapped opportunities that the Pumas so generously sent their way and will have to perform at a level greater than anything they have offered up so far in 2012. But it is hard to imagine that they will be beaten by a side which has turned out some fairly average performances.
The Rainbow Nation will be waiting in anticipation as Goosen steps up to the plate. Will he be the orchestrator who can provide the winning edge against the team that no-one seems to be able to beat?
One thing is for sure, Goosen's second game is going to be a lot tougher than his first outing.
It is unlikely that he will be permitted the same freedom on Sunday that he enjoyed last weekend and just how well he handles the added pressure will go a long way to determining how much of a threat the Springboks will be.
With Richie McCaw and the boys chasing him down relentlessly, it is going to take a huge performance from those around him to provide the confidence that will stop him sinking deeper and deeper in to the pocket and using the tried and trusted plan of kicking to create pressure.
His performance, when lining up against the greatest of them all in Dan Carter, will be an intriguing one in front of the 94,000 spectators at Soweto.
The All Blacks will need to build on the La Plata performance, which wasn't a lot more than an outing that demonstrated the gap between being the best in the world and eighth-ranked side. Another tongue poking, eye boggling, strong gestured haka to kick things off should do the trick.
■ Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.
- Taranaki Daily News
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