The most anticipated game of The Rugby Championship sees the All Blacks host the Springboks in what is shaping as another classic at Eden Park. We’ll have live scores from 5.35pm AEST.
The world’s number one side come into tonight with a perfect 6-0 record from their Tests in 2013, breezing to a clean sweep of the French in June and then overpowering the Wallabies (twice) and Pumas in The Rugby Championship.
Yet there is the sense that save for a handful of short spells against the Wallabies, the All Blacks have hardly been pushed.
That should change tonight when they welcome Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks, arguably the form team of the tournament.
After humiliating the Pumas in Johannesburg, the Springboks then scrapped a 22-17 win in Mendoza before blowing the Australians out of the water in a 38-12 win in Brisbane, their first victory in eight attempts in the city.
Unsurprisingly, Meyer has named an unchanged starting XV to take on the All Blacks but the same cannot be said for the hosts.
An knee injury to skipper Richie McCaw will keep him out of the remainder of The Rugby Championship, though he could return for the third Bledisloe Cup game in Dunedin.
Sam Cane will come in at openside in place of the 119-Test veteran, while Liam Messam also returns at six after overcoming a hamstring injury.
Up front, Dane Coles and Owen Franks come in for Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore respectively, while Ma’a Nonu returns at second-five.
Against what is certain to be a physical sub-battle against Bismarck du Plessis, Coles’ inclusion could prove to be a pivotal factor in a game that very well could be decided in the forwards.
But a cursory glance across the All Blacks starting XV is a suitable reminder that they possess quality in every position, and names such as Read, Dagg, Carter, Smith, Whitelock there are plenty of match-winners out there.
In front of what is expected to be a bulging Eden Park crowd of 58,000 this one will be a superb Test.
Join us for live scores from 5.35pm AEST.