What's it going to be this time? Will it be a dulling mixture of déjà vu, same old same old and seen it all before? Will we again have to find some solace in self-deluding victories that do not involve the scoring of points? Or will we suddenly come alive to an 80-minute performance of sharp, controlled, creative rugby that will remind the All Blacks that they are not the biggest catfish in the sea.
At present the second scenario is the stuff of dreams and wishful thinking, it seems. It's just so hard to see where it will come from in a team so drab and predictable - relentlessly charging one at a time at tacklers who need no finesse in bringing them down. Or the kicking game - high and chase, and done best by Fourie du Preez.
Clearly the All Blacks are doing a bit of personnel appraisal, seeing if Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui, Colin Slade, John Afoa and Tony Woodcock can still play Test rugby. And it's also a chance to give certainties a bit of R&R - Mils Muliaina, Conrad Smith, Daniel Carter, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read and Richie McCaw.
Funny when a Tri-Nations between rugby's greatest rivals becomes yet another pre-World Cup testing ground. The All Blacks know they do not have to test their scrums, because they have the beating of the Springboks there. They have Ali Williams who can be such a devil in the line-outs. And they know that, even if Heinrich Brüssow is there, they can blow the Springboks away at the tackle. They also know that they can get the ball to the wings and play creatively from there in ways the Springboks cannot. No, their testing is individual rather than team.
It seems that the Springboks are not altogether buying into victory without points. They are saying they need to win to build confidence - and this is their last shot at getting things right. Their next combat will be against Wales in Wellington on 9/11. They know the difference between winning and losing and probably realise that losing is not necessarily the best preparation for winning.
When it comes to goalkicking - so important in South African plans to score winning points - it would seem that Morné Steyn and Patrick Lambie have an edge though Israel Dagg has been known to hit the right spot from time to time.
Players to Watch
Because this seems to be a test of returnees, there is greater interest in Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui and Tony Woodcock amongst the All Blacks and in Gurthrö Steenkamp, Heinrich Brüssow and Willem Alberts on the Springbok side.
There will also be interest in the promising form of Colin Slade and to see of Pierre Spies can build on last week's ball-carrying and perhaps add tackling to his repertoire.
It is always interesting to watch Ali Williams and Bismarck du Plessis with their skills and shenanigans. And then everybody watches Sonny Bill Williams with his strength and sleight of hand.
Oh, and let's see what influence the benches make. Last week when the time came for Springbok substitutions their game fell away.
Head to Head
The scrumhalf battles are always obvious. Let's see what impact combative Jimmy Cowan has on Fourie du Preez. Other private battles - Victor Matfield vs Ali Williams, William Alberts vs Jerome Kaino, Jaque Fourie vs Richard Kahui
2011: New Zealand won 40-7 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 29-22 at National Stadium, Soweto
2010: New Zealand won 31-17 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2010: New Zealand won 32-12 at Eden Park, Auckland
2009: South Africa won 32-29 at Rugby Park, Hamilton
2009: South Africa won 31-19 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2009: South Africa won 28-19 at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
2008: New Zealand won 19-0 at Newlands
2008: South Africa won 30-28 at Carisbrook, Dunedin
2008: New Zealand won 19-8 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2007: New Zealand won 33-6 at Jade Stadium, Christchurch
2007: New Zealand won 26-21 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2006: South Africa won 21-20 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
2006: New Zealand won 45-26 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2006: New Zealand won 35-17 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2005: New Zealand won 31-27 at Carisbrook, Dunedin
2005: South Africa won 22-16 at Newlands
Prediction: Asked if he thought his side could beat the Boks, Keven Mealamu answered in Obama-esque fashion: "Yes, we can." Of course, they can. It is hard to think of a time when the Springboks were more vulnerable than they are now, desperate, in a corner and without weapons. New Zealand to win by 10 or more.
South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 François Hougaard, 22 Butch James.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Cory Jane.
Date: Saturday, August 20
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather conditions: Clear day of sunshine with a high of 20°C, dropping to 10°C
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Small (England), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
By Paul Dobson
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