The Boks are set to face the All Blacks in a blockbuster double-header over the next two weekends, with New Zealand coming off the back of a humbling series defeat against Ireland, while South Africa clinched a 2-1 series win over Wales.
The Springboks have slipped from first to third in the world rankings, while the All Blacks are in fourth, only just ahead of England.
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Looking ahead to Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash, Nick Mallett has suggested in his Sport24 column that it’s not only the All Blacks who will be feeling the pressure.
“The Springboks weren’t that convincing against Wales, and while the All Blacks and their coach Ian Foster are under the pump following four losses in their last five Tests, that pressure will transfer to Jacques Nienaber if he loses these two home Tests against South Africa’s biggest rivals,” Mallett wrote.
“It’s just a matter of pride for these guys (the All Blacks). It’s not a case of backs to the wall; it’s massive desperation. They will be playing for their lives, and the result matters enormously to the nation’s mood.
“There is no doubt that the All Blacks will be fired up for this, and given that they have a great skillset, they will score if given half a chance. If they can get their physicality up, which I imagine will be no problem, then I think they will be right in this…
“I think the situation for (All Blacks coach Ian) Foster is that if they lose two, he will lose his job. If they win one and lose one, he may scrape through, and if they win two, then the pressure is on Jacques Nienaber.
“It’s incredibly tight because if Jacques goes on that away leg against Australia – where we haven’t won for quite a while – with two losses at home, it’s going to be a very unpleasant plane to get onto.
“There is pressure all around. It’s not just on New Zealand.”
Foster has increasingly come under fire since taking over the top job, while two of his assistant coaches – John Plumtree and Brad Mooar – were recently sacked.
According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, NZR chief executive Mark Robinson held a tense meeting with Foster, telling the coach that if performances and results don’t improve in South Africa, he will be expected to resign.
Part of New Zealand Rugby’s desire for Foster to resign is a reluctance to incur any more costs from contract terminations, but it’s believed that the 57-year-old has insisted the governing body must fire him if they want him to step away.
According to the New Zealand Herald, terminating Foster – who is believed to be on NZ$1 million (R10m) per year – and his coaching team’s contracts could cost New Zealand Rugby in excess of NZ$3 million (R30m).
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Last week, former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen took a closer look at the issues facing New Zealand Rugby, revealing what the root cause of the problem really is.
“He (Foster) won’t be happy with how things have gone of late but I don’t think the issue is just inside the team. There are bigger issues than that,” Hansen said.
“The relationship between the board and the executive with the players at the moment is probably the worst it’s ever been. The way they handled the new (Silver Lake) money scheme … (former chairman) Brent Impey came out and absolutely roasted the players, with no consultation.
“I don’t think they (NZR) are doing their job right at the moment. You’ve got a group of great All Black captains coming out and forming a group which went and spoke to them … Kirky (All Blacks great Ian Kirkpatrick) was in the paper saying they felt they weren’t listened to.
“Let’s start there, to get that right. If you look back to when we were really successful from about 2010 to 2019, which was our most successful era, the board and the executive at the rugby union were humming.
“There was complete togetherness and connection with the actual All Black team.”
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Saturday, 6 August: Springboks v New Zealand – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, 17:05
Saturday, 13 August: Springboks v New Zealand – Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 17:05
Saturday, 27 August: Springboks v Australia – Adelaide Oval, 07:30
Saturday, 3 September: Springboks v Australia – Allianz Stadium, 11:35
Saturday, 17 September: Springboks v Argentina – Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires, 21:10
Saturday, 24 September: Springboks v Argentina – Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban, 17:05