Boks v All Blacks: ‘The Test match every kid wants to play in’
It’s a pool match in name only, the sort of mammoth contest with deep historical roots that this World Cup needs
The All Blacks brand is back in business. So, too, is that of the Springboks. Both teams have been mobbed at hotel and training fields in Kashiwa and Fukuoka. Television crews clamour for their every appearance, microphones are poised to catch soundbites. New Zealand head coach Steven Hansen was moved to reveal after yet more gushing adulation that he was not “God, just a normal human being”.
In Japan, these players are rock stars with studs on. New Zealand against SA is the most potent and deep-rooted rivalry in rugby, every bit as fierce and unremitting as El Clasico or a Boca-River Plate derby. Recent years may have seen the competitiveness between them wane, but put all that on the back burner. The behemoths are in town, ready to face off on Saturday in Yokohama, a pool match in name only. It is the sort of contest this World Cup needs; a game that will resonate beyond the confines of the tournament itself.
“It is the Test match that every kid wants to play in,” said All Black lock Sam Whitelock – a two-time World Cup-winner – at the team base in central Tokyo following a morning training session. “Some of my greatest memories are when I was a little fellow waking in the middle of the night to watch those matches.”..