Smit: World Cup chances hinge on beating ABs

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 11:43 26/08/2014
John Smit
Fairfax NZ

SPRINGBOKS GREAT: Former skipper John Smit savoured World Cup victory in 2007.

Martin Corry
Reuters
FORMER CAPTAIN: England's Martin Corry.

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Former South African captain John Smit has implored the Springboks to beat the All Blacks in this year's Rugby Championship for the sake of their World Cup chances.

The Boks have claimed two knife-edge wins over Argentina to shade the All Blacks by a point after two rounds of the championship.

Their acid test loomed as they prepared for tests against the Wallabies in Perth and All Blacks in Wellington on successive weekends.

The Boks have not beaten the All Blacks under current coach Heyneke Meyer, and their last win against New Zealand was in Port Elizabeth in 2011 against a second-string All Blacks outfit.

Smit, who led South Africa to glory at the 2007 World Cup, said a win for the Boks was essential for confidence leading into next year's World Cup in England, where New Zealand would try to be the first team to win back-to-back titles.

"You don't want to enter a World Cup tournament without beating New Zealand. Now is the time," Smit told Die Burger newspaper.

If the World Cup ran to form, the All Blacks and Springboks were scheduled to meet in a semifinal.

Smit said the Boks would not want to contest a playoff without a win over the All Blacks before the tournament.

Smit's thoughts were echoed by England's 2003 World Cup winner and former skipper, Martin Corry.

It seems the world was ganging up on coach Steve Hansen's side, desperate to see the All Blacks trip up as their 19-match unbeaten sequence since 2012 rolled on.

England were the last team to beat the All Blacks, winning 38-21 at Twickenham in 2012.

"It's important that someone beats the All Blacks now," Corry told Die Burger as the World Cup was displayed in South Africa.

"The All Blacks just need to lose once so that there could be pressure on them. We all know that they aren't at their best when put under pressure."

Rugby writers in South Africa have tried to put some perspective on the Boks' efforts.

As the All Blacks rebounded from the Sydney draw to demolish the Wallabies in record fashion in Auckland last weekend, South Africa backed up a harrowing win over the Pumas in Pretoria by gaining a last-gasp win in Salta, Argentina, through a late penalty goal from veteran Morne Steyn.

It was a two-test tussle where the Boks' forwards struggled.

"Taking their heads out of the sand and admitting that there is a massive problem with the scrum would be a good start, but the Springbok self-analysis will have to go far further than that if the problems that were exposed by Argentina are not to lead to crisis later in the Rugby Championship," veteran rugby writer Gavin Rich said on SuperSport.

"On a Saturday when New Zealand comprehensively swept away any doubt that they remain the team to beat and confirmed the pre-tournament predictions that they should retain their hegemony in southern hemisphere rugby, Salta provided evidence that the creaks that started to show themselves in the South African game in the second test against Wales may not have just been an aberration.

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"Coach Heyneke Meyer is right to be positive about the way his team responded to the pressure of being down in two of the three games under the microscope.

"It may even be what the Boks need at this stage of their build towards next year's World Cup in England.

"But if he was honest, he would have to admit that in both instances the opposition lack of self-belief and consequent inability to close out the games is all that stood between them and defeats that could have been by humiliating margins.

"That has to be a concern if you take into consideration that Wales have never won in South Africa and the Boks have never lost to Argentina, particularly with the All Blacks being so resounding in their annihilation of Australia in Auckland."

At Keo.co.za, the sentiments were similar, believing the All Blacks had made a "big statement with their high-tempo game".

Writer John Cardinelli said that while the Boks would have been happy to bank a win in Argentina to be top of the table, "there was nothing pretty about the Boks' performance in Salta".

"Indeed, if this result could be personified, it had warts, a hooked nose and a hunchback," he wrote.

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