Given that the last three Tests between the two sides have been decided by two or less points, it’s no surprise there’s huge hype surrounding Saturday’s latest meeting between the Springboks and the All Blacks.
South Africans are feeling particularly bullish as the national side returns to the scene of last year’s momentous 36-34 victory over the old enemy, a first win in New Zealand since 2009.
But if they are to repeat that feat, here are the four things they need to do.
Kwagga needs to operate at full speed
Ask any of the Springbok coaching staff for their opinion of Kwagga Smith and they’ll tell you they’ve been blown away by how he’s simply forced his way into the national setup.
More impressively, the Lions star is currently considered ‘A-team’ material, attesting to how highly he’s being rated.
It’s common knowledge that Smith will be expected to assist provincial teammate Malcolm Marx in being one of the main poachers at the breakdown.
Yet that will hardly be his only task.
A brilliant sevens player, Smith is a superb defender and has an almost unparalleled ability (at least in this team) to seek, create and exploit space when many others can’t.
That’s why Rassie Erasmus has picked him.
Forward dominance from the outset
Yes, it’s a painfully obvious statement to make, but it’s the ultimate weapon the Boks have against the Kiwis.
South Africa’s greatest modern performances against the All Blacks have been characterised by their ability to physically rattle their opponents.
In fact, it’s become a deeply ingrained mental block for the New Zealanders and was once again a successful recipe even in Super Rugby, when the Sharks drew with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Boks though still need to go out and show their intent right from the first whistle.
It won’t help much if Sam Whitelock smashes Franco Mostert with a big tackle within the first few minutes.
This is as much a mental as a physical game.
Pollard needs to take charge
If the Springboks are going to execute their plan, they’re going to need their general to take the lead.
There was a view last season that Handre Pollard took a back seat in letting his halfback partner, Faf de Klerk, be the brains of the South African effort.
It was a bit understandable as the pivot wanted to focus on re-establishing himself as an international player.
However, after a brilliant Super Rugby campaign for the Bulls, Pollard now looks ready to call the shots.
He’ll need to know when to play the tactical game, when to attack the line and when to get his backs going.
Decent decision-making against the world’s best team is non-negotiable.
The bench needs to step up
Every rugby player naturally wants to be versatile, a good starting player and a good impact player.
The reality is different.
Some very accomplished players simply don’t quite seem to be dynamic enough to come off a bench and make a marked difference with 15 minutes to go.
While Erasmus has various options – Bongi Mbonambi, RG Snyman, Herschel Jantjies and Frans Steyn – that do possess that ability, a few don’t.
Both replacement props Beast Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane have developed reputations as workhorses who are at their most effective as starters or even 80-minute players.
34-year-old Francois Louw remains wily, but can he up the tempo against opponents known for raising their intensity in the last 2o minutes?
It’s not that these three men can’t fulfill the roles they’ve been earmarked for, but they’ll have to play out of their skins.