The Rugby Championship: All Blacks must step up for under-fire Foster in the heat of Springboks battle

By Sports Desk August 04, 2022

Ian Foster will know there is more than just Rugby Championship points at stake when wounded New Zealand start their campaign against South Africa on Saturday.

Foster is under huge pressure after the All Blacks suffered a first home Test series defeat to Ireland last month.

New Zealand have come under fire following a 32-22 loss against Andy Farrell's inspired side in the decider in Wellington, with growing calls for Foster to be sacked.

Mark Robinson, the New Zealand Rugby chief executive, was unable to offer head coach Foster long-term backing before the squad boarded the plane for two Tests against the world champions.

Asked about Foster's future, he told Newstalk ZB: "He's certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa, and we're making sure they've got everything possible in the way of resourcing and support to make sure that's successful."

Robinson had stated that the 2-1 series defeat to Ireland was "not acceptable", and it would appear he will not tolerate further painful setbacks in South Africa.

Assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar lost their jobs after Ireland's historic triumph, but Foster has vowed to fight on just 13 months before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

Winning the Rugby Championship title last year must seem like a distant memory for Foster as his side prepared to start the defence of their crown at Mbombela Stadium.

Following years of dominance, New Zealand are fourth in the rankings, and this is something of a crisis by their standards.

Victory for the Springboks in Nelspruit this weekend would represent a third defeat in a row for New Zealand for the first time since they lost five consecutive Tests in July and August 1998, two of which came at the hands of South Africa.

Foster has made four changes to his team for the opening match of the tournament, bringing in lock Scott Barrett, hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho, tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao and wing Caleb Clarke.

South Africa have not beaten New Zealand at home since a 27-25 success in 2014, but Jacques Nienaber's men will be favourites to end that wait on Saturday.

The Springboks have won six of their past seven Tests on home soil, the last of which was a 30-14 defeat of Wales in Cape Town that sealed a 2-1 series victory.

A formidable, powerful force when at their brutal best, facing South Africa in their own backyard is an almighty challenge, and Foster will need warriors to step up with his job seemingly on the line.

Argentina and Australia get the tournament under way at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Saturday, with the Pumas on a high from securing a dramatic series win over Scotland.

They won the decider against Gregor Townsend's men 34-31 last month thanks to a last-gasp try from Emiliano Boffelli and will now attempt to end a six-Test winless streak against the Wallabies.

Australia have been licking their wounds since suffering a 2-1 Test series defeat at home to England, and they have won only one of their past nine Tests played away from home – that victory being over Japan last October. 

Related items

  • Individual feats 'secondary' to wins for Wembanyama Individual feats 'secondary' to wins for Wembanyama

    Victor Wembanyama wants victories, not individual feats, after he joined Michael Jordan in the NBA record books.

    Wembanyama became just the second NBA rookie, after Jamaal Tinsley in 2001, to post at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in a single game. He is just the second player to have five blocks and as many steals in successive games, after the great Jordan.

    However, his efforts proved fruitless for the San Antonio Spurs, who lost 113-108 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

    Wembanyama finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks. He is just the 15th player in the NBA to record a 5x5.

    But for the overall number one draft pick, wins are the priority.

    "To me, it's secondary," Wembanyama said. "Hopefully in the future, and think this is a good performance, but as of today, I can't be satisfied with a loss."

    LeBron James returned from injury to score 30 points for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

    "Of course it was challenging [going against] one of the best duos in the league," Wembanyama said of facing two of the NBA's star players.

    "But still, I think it's a lot of teams we beat if we play this way.

    "But I think it came down to maturity at the end because each and every one of us was making a mistake each of the times.

    "Little mistakes, missing a layup, turning the ball over. We went down, we went back to down four, down seven multiple times and that's when we did mistakes. So yeah, it's maturity."

    Even though the Spurs have lost 10 of their last 11 games, James believes the sky truly is the limit for Wembanyama.

    "He doesn't have a ceiling," James said.

    "He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I'm not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it's literally that simple.

    "There are guys in our league that you have to account for any time you get around the rim or around the perimeter in our league history, and he sits right at the top of it, [if not] around the top, with all the greats.

    "He's one of them to have like a stellar rookie season. Guys that have come in and [dominated]. But, it's, can you sustain it? We've had guys that have come in and [have] just been really damn [good]."

    The Lakers returned to winning ways following their loss to the Golden State Warriors, but coach Darvin Ham was not entirely satisfied with the performance.

    "You want your team to constantly look within and try to make plays and force the other team to put you in uncomfortable positions," Ham said.

    "Not you put yourself in those uncomfortable positions, whether it's not sprinting back in transition or allowing teams to get two or three offensive rebounds. Or, you know, fouling because we're not in position because we're not doing our work early. And then going down the other end and not trusting the execution.

    "We've got a bunch of weapons, but they're useless if we don't do the little things, sprinting hard when we get the ball in transition, not turning it over, maintaining spacing, making sure we get hits on screens to create an advantage and making the simple, easy play."

  • Nick Tompkins insists Wales are relishing stern Ireland challenge in Dublin Nick Tompkins insists Wales are relishing stern Ireland challenge in Dublin

    Nick Tompkins says that Wales are excited and not daunted by the challenge that awaits them against Guinness Six Nations title favourites Ireland on Saturday.

    The odds are stacked against Wales, having not won a Six Nations game in Dublin since 2012 and facing a team marching ominously towards achieving back-to-back Grand Slams.

    More than a third of Wales’ match-day 23 have cap totals in single figures, while a vastly-experienced Ireland team last suffered a Six Nations defeat two years ago.

    Asked if there was a more daunting test in world rugby than tackling Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Wales centre Tompkins said: “I don’t know about daunting.

    “Daunting makes it sounds like we are scared. We are not. We are excited.

    “Realistically, we have got nothing to lose. It is a big challenge, but you need those big ones.

    “There is no point in playing a mediocre side, and it is going to be good to see where we are at.”

    Wales lost their opening two Six Nations encounters against Scotland and England by a combined margin of three points and could easily have arrived in Dublin with an unbeaten record.

    Scotland held on for a 27-26 victory in Cardiff after Wales scored 26 unanswered points, while it took a late George Ford penalty to overhaul Wales’ nine-point interval advantage at Twickenham.

    Ireland, though, have proved themselves time and time again as northern hemisphere rugby’s current dominant force, with Wales facing easily their sternest test since Warren Gatland returned for a second stint as head coach prior to last season’s Six Nations.

    Tompkins added: “If we are off on any one thing, any one aspect of play, they are going to pounce on it.

    “We have been talking this week about the need to give everything, in every area of the game, all the time. It needs to be (for) 80 minutes as well.

    “We have bigged this up enough for ourselves, we are focusing on ourselves, but the boys know what lies ahead.

    “I am not saying you can’t make any mistakes, but in those moments when you have got them under pressure, you cannot let them off.

    “It is nice when you have got some of those younger lads. They don’t have that fear, that naivety.

    “It’s quite nice, so you try and install that and go out and play and have a bit of enjoyment about it. When you do that against Scotland and you come back and you should have won it, or nearly won it, it just shows where we can take it.

    “I don’t want them to go there and worry about outside aspects or we can’t beat them or we can’t do this, I want them to go and just be them and be confident with it and enjoy it.”

  • Courtney Lawes to join Brive in summer after accepting ‘transformational’ offer Courtney Lawes to join Brive in summer after accepting ‘transformational’ offer

    Courtney Lawes has accepted a lucrative deal to join French second-division club Brive that will see him depart Northampton at the end the season.

    Lawes will bring down the curtain on his illustrious career overseas after accepting a “transformational” offer that Saints – his only club in 17 years as a professional – were unable to match.

    The 35-year-old flanker has followed up an impressive 2023 World Cup with his outstanding form in this season’s Gallagher Premiership and Northampton were keen to keep him at Franklin’s Gardens.

    But former England captain Lawes, who announced his Test retirement in October, has reluctantly made the decision to join the growing number of English players heading across the Channel.

    “I want to make it clear that I really would have liked to end my career as a one-club man and Saints did absolutely everything they possibly could to make that happen – our conversations were all very positive,” Lawes said.

    “But first and foremost I have to make sure that my family and I are in the best position possible for my retirement, which will be in the next couple of years.

    “This is likely to be the last contract I’ll ever sign and the offer I have received to play overseas will be transformational for my family, so there was no way I could turn it down and I took the decision to move away from Northampton.

    “I’ve been through it all with Saints and I just hope that my efforts on the pitch have reflected my appreciation for the club.”

    Lawes, a physical and athletic back five forward who has played in four World Cups, has made 274 appearances for Northampton so far, on top of winning 105 caps for England and a further five for the British and Irish Lions.

    Saints have suffered more than most clubs from the exodus of players to France, with Lewis Ludlam also leaving at the end of the season, while David Ribbans and Dan Biggar have already departed.

    “Clearly it’s very disappointing that Courtney has decided to leave, but it’s a decision he has made with the long-term future of his family in mind, which we fully understand and respect,” chief executive Mark Darbon said.

    “We obviously wanted Courtney to stay and we made him a significantly increased offer to remain part of our squad.

    “But given this will probably be his last ever contract and the incredible service he has already given to the club over the last 17 seasons, no-one can begrudge him accepting a very substantial alternative offer to finish his career overseas.

    “Given the financial challenges that we, like all Premiership clubs, are still navigating, ultimately we just could not compete with the transformational scale of the offer Courtney has received.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.