Rugby Championship Preview: South Africa Vs New Zealand

South Africa will be looking to put one over the old enemy New Zealand in the Rugby Championship on Saturday at their traditional fortress of Ellis Park in Johannesburg.  The Springboks have scored four or more tries in five of their last six games at the famed Johannesburg venue (failing to score a single try in the other against the British and Irish Lions in a dead rubber Test in 2009).  The last three games between these sides at the ground have seen an average of 72 points scored per game.

Former All Blacks star Andrew Mehrtens is the record points scorer at Ellis Park, picking up 92 points in six games at the venue.  Despite having a winning record against the New Zealanders at home (W24, L20, D1), the South Africans have a negative points difference in the head to head (-23).  The Kiwis have won their last two away games against the Boks but they have only won three on the bounce twice before (2001-2003 & 1996).

Jean De Villiers scored a brace of tries last weekend, the third time he has achieved that feat in a Springboks jersey, and the first time since scoring two against Wales in June 2008.  However De Villiers will have his work cut out to breach the New Zealand defence, who boast the best tackling success rate in this year’s Rugby Championship, completing 89% of their attempted tackles.  Additionally, the Kiwis have averaged the most clean breaks (8.4) in the tournament so far, with South Africa ranking last (4.8) in the category.

The Springboks have won a tournament high 91% of their own lineouts this year, while the All Blacks boast the best scrum success rate (89%).  The South Africans have conceded an average of just 9.4 penalties per game in this tournament and, while the New Zealanders meanwhile have conceded the most (12.4 per game) and all these statistics, provided by Opta Sports, make for what will hopefully be a very exciting clash of rugby’s traditional titans.