10 Sep

All in the Numbers – Match Preview, Hamilton
by Tracey Nelson
10 Sep 2009

The win by the Wallabies over the Springboks last weekend has left the Tri-Nations door ajar for the All Blacks. But the road to winning the Tri-Nations crown is far from easy, and with South Africa sitting at the top of the table and with a handy points differential, the All Blacks are going to have to pull out all the stops this weekend.

According to a study released by Auckland University this week, New Zealanders are not particularly good at linking maths to everyday life and it suggested that we have neither the ability nor the inclination to use mathematics effectively. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that to stay alive in the TriNations the All Blacks neeed to do three things on Saturday:

1. Win

2. Deny South Africa any bonus points (which means don’t let them score four tries and/or be within seven points of our score)

3. Preferably score four tries in winning the game, or if not then win by more than 25 points.

Of course, those who can do maths will quickly work out that the best way to win by 25 points or more is by scoring tries because it is fairly unlikely the Springboks will concede 9 penalties within kicking distance and that Dan Carter will nail them all – not impossible, but I’d say improbable.

The likelihood of the All Blacks scoring four tries is also in the improbable basket. Namely because so far in 2009 they are only averaging 1.4 tries a game, and in Tri-Nations test matches it lowers to just on one try per game. The 10 tries scored so far in 2009 is the worst try tally since 1978, and given we haven’t scored a bonus point win in the last 8 test matches against South Africa you wouldn’t be putting money on it happening this weekend – especially with wet weather forecast for Saturday night in Hamilton.

However, there is one number I like and that is the one on the back of Dan Carter’s jersey. Thankfully he has been selected at 1st 5, and despite the All Black coaches suggesting that they will use two pivots on attack and either Carter or Donald will call the plays, hopes of the All Blacks winning – and winning well enough to possibly score four tries – surely lie in the hands of the world’s best playmaker.

A few eyebrows were raised over the lack of specialist lock on the All Blacks’ bench, but given our current lack of international locks and the prowess of the Bok lineout there really was little to be gained by having specialist cover there. By including Adam Thomson, the All Blacks are allowing themselves the luxury of fresh legs and a player who has shown great form in the ANZC with his speed and skills at the breakdown. As the Wallabies proved last weekend, it is the contest at the breakdown and speed of play that is vital to beat this South African side.

This test match will the be third in a row on the road for the Springboks, and while they are making noises about wanting to atone for the loss against Australia in Brisbane last week, they will be feeling jaded. Add to that the insult they handed Hamiltonians by delaying their arrival into NZ because "there is nothing to do in Hamilton", I would expect the crowd to be baying for blood when they run out on the field. It will be the first time the Springboks have played a Tri-Nations test in New Zealand at a ground where the crowd is so close to the sidelines, so I expect the atmosphere to be well and truly charged in favour of the All Blacks.

Kick off is at 7.35pm in Hamilton, Saturday 12 September.

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