About ten days ago the venues were announced for South Africa’s 2015 Rugby Championship fixtures. A shortened format, owing to it being a World Cup year, sees the Springboks visit Australia before hosting New Zealand and Argentina at Ellis Park and King’s Park respectively. South African Rugby Union (SARU) CEO Jurie Roux commented afterwards that the All Blacks Test will rotate around the country again from 2016 because cities like Cape Town and Durban have protested against the money-spinning Kiwi Tests being played exclusively in Johannesburg.
Roux appears to have caved in to the coastal cities’ demands (and who knows how many other inland venues) but it appears the bigwigs at SARU have the memory of a goldfish. The initial reason for staging Bok-All Blacks outings at Ellis Park was because of the perceived advantage it gives the hosts. Upon closer investigation the perception is true.
Since readmission in 1992 the South Africans and New Zealanders have met at the famed Joburg ground on eight occasions with the home side triumphing five times (62.5% success rate) and this is easily the best record the Springboks have against their old foes on home turf when one excludes once-off wins in Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg and Bloemfontein. In fact, at any other stadium in South Africa it is the current world champions who hold the upper hand, and in some instances like Pretoria (0-4), embarrassingly so.
The situation in Durban is a little closer with two home wins versus three to the visitors while in the Mother City the All Blacks have dominated with three wins to one. In the case of Newlands, the tourists enjoy the added boost of a large base of support from locals who prefer the black jersey over the green and gold.
Is it not the purpose of home ground advantage to give yourself the edge as far as possible? In the professional era it is hardly going to be the case that you can send your visitors to a run down hostel that serves cold coffee and damaged eggs for breakfast but you can at the very least give yourself the best possible chance. The Springboks’ best possible chance of victory over the old enemy is when they play at Ellis Park. Oddly enough, the Boks have never beaten France at this venue, so when Les Bleus next visit, I would be looking to keep them as far away from Johannesburg as possible.
A few weeks ago I blogged about how certain teams or individuals seem to struggle against certain opposition for no apparent or logical reason. South Africa are at their best against New Zealand at Ellis Park. That is just the way it is and when one factors in their near-invincibility why would you not want to play them at Ellis Park?