Rugby in the nine years since the All Blacks and the Springboks last met in Cape Town has changed to a point where New Zealand have won two World Cups and have only changed a coach once.
For the Springboks‚ they beat the British and Irish Lions‚ something New Zealand failed to do this year but have been on the receiving end of 57-point beatings against the All Blacks‚ historic defeats to Japan‚ Argentina and Italy while changing two coaches.
This is how the starting 22 for the Tri-Nations game in Cape Town on August 16‚ 2008 looked like while Saturday’s match-day 23 coached by Steven Hansen‚ who was an assistant to Sir Graham Henry nine years ago‚ is one player short as match-day squads had 22 players at the time.
15: Mils Muliaina (28) v Damian McKenzie (22)
Muliaina was long established as the best fullback in the world at the time and had mastered the kick-chase and receive every fullback is now required to have in their armoury.
McKenzie faces stiff competition from David Havili and the injured Israel Dagg but still remains an electric prospect at the back.
14: Richard Kahui (23) v Nehe Milner-Skudder (26)
Because of the burgeoning excellence of the Nonu/Smith midfield partnership‚ Kahui had to play wing and deputised to good effect when he was deployed in the outer channels.
Milner-Skudder has bounced back from some debilitating injuries to re-establish himself as one of New Zealand’s premier wings in what is a heavily contested space.
13: Conrad Smith (27) v Ryan Crotty (29)
Smith was starting to find his feet at international level at this stage and scored a very good try in this game that was aided by a moment of magic from Richie McCaw.
Like Smith‚ Crotty is missed when he’s not around because of his ability to blend into his surroundings and marshal the defensive effort.
At this time‚ Crotty was on the verge of breaking into the Crusaders’ Super Rugby side.
12: Ma’a Nonu (26) v Sonny-Bill Williams (32)
Nonu became New Zealand’s mainstay at inside centre before Williams came onto the scene two years later.
He was the prototype midfield enforcer with touches of class and skill that improved with age.
Williams has everything in his armoury and his adherence to basics lately has seen him become an important cog of this developing All Black side
11: Sitiveni Sivivatu (26) v Rieko Ioane (20)
Sivivatu was nearly at the end of his career as his inability to deal with the high ball was about to be exposed in the following year.
He was still a tough customer with his pace and physicality‚ attributes Ioane already possesses at a young age.
Again he’s thrived in a position where New Zealand rugby is well stocked with quality depth.
10: Daniel Carter (26) v Beauden Barrett (26)
It seems the age of 26 is when flyhalves come of age.
That’s been the case with Barrett while Carter was already a proven class act with three Super Rugby titles at the time.
Barrett has one already but they crossed paths in the lead up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup which the All Blacks defended with consummate ease.
09: Jimmy Cowan (26) v Aaron Smith (28)
Cowan was in a pitched battle with Piri Weepu for the number nine jersey in this period while Smith is clearly the best scrumhalf in the world.
New Zealand rugby was still looking to replace Justin Marshall and Byron Kelleher but once Smith shuffled onto the scene in 2012‚ everyone else was forgotten.
New Zealand rugby have built depth in the position to offset injury problems.
08: Rodney So’oialo (29) v Kieran Read © (31)
Read wasn’t yet the quality number eight he has become but he was showing shades of that at this juncture.
So’oialo couldn’t fight off Read’s claims and by 2009‚ the Wellington number eight was already displaced by the current All Black captain‚ who has two World Cup winners medals and more than 100 test caps.
07: Richie McCaw (28) © v Sam Cane (25)
McCaw may have overseen two World Cup wins but it was around this time when he was the unrivalled breakdown master.
Heinrich Brussow posed a serious challenge between 2009 and 2011 but the adaptable McCaw had the staying power to last another seven years.
Cane was bled during his tenure and has now settled as New Zealand’s premier openside loose-forward.
06: Jerome Kaino (25) v Liam Squire (26)
If Kaino wasn’t nabbed for an extra-marital relationship that went public on the eve of the first Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Sydney two months ago‚ he would have been the only All Black survivor from this test.
He’s with the squad but has to watch Liam Squire get better with every test.
There’s the likely possibility that Kaino’s career could come to a halt now that he’s 34.
05: Ali Williams (27) v Scott Barrett (23)
Williams was lurking behind Victor Matfield’s shadow as one of the better line-out operators in the world while Scott Barrett gets a start because of Brodie Retallick’s compassionate leave.
Williams was not as busy in the loose as compared to Barrett‚ but they are excellent lineout exponents.
04: Brad Thorn (33) v Sam Whitelock (28)
The thuggish Thorn was a serious enforcer who wasn’t scared of operating on the fringes of the law.
Whitelock is a clean and better skilled operator who picks apart lineouts better than anyone in the world at the moment.
03: Greg Somerville (30) v Nepo Laulala (26)
Somerville was one of the world’s leading tighthead props but was starting to show the signs of a non-stop career after constantly swapping places with Carl Hayman.
“Yoda” played the last of his 66 tests later in 2008 as New Zealand tried to look to the future.
Laulala found himself thrust in the limelight because of a season-ending injury to Owen Franks and hasn’t done too badly.
02: Andrew Hore (30) v Dane Coles (30)
Hore shared the hooking duties with Mealamu while Coles is head above shoulders the best number two in the world.
Coles does have credible competition and like most hookers‚ he’s starting to come into his own in his 30’s.
Hore‚ along with Mealamu went on to play starring roles in the 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph while Coles is the heartbeat of the current New Zealand pack.
01: Tony Woodcock (27) v Kane Hames (29)
Woodcock already had some serious rugby mileage by this juncture while Hames is still plotting out his course as a test-class loosehead prop.
Hames is at a stage where he needs to prove he’s one of the better ones in the business while Woodcock became one of New Zealand’s more celebrated test props in New Zealand.
16: Keven Mealamu (29) v Cody Taylor (26)
Mealamu was still fighting off Hore’s attentions but went on to win two World Cups.
Taylor is an able deputy for Coles when he’s out injured.
17: John Afoa (24) v Wyatt Crockett (34)
Afoa was one of those props who couldn’t quite establish himself while Crockett was already on Super Rugby duty in
Crockett’s age seems to weigh against him but he’s still a good bench option.
18: Anthony Boric (24) v Patrick Tuipolotu (24)
Boric and Tuipolotu share similarities in that they have to compete with better locks just to get onto the bench.
They haven’t been international first choices but are able deputies when called upon in times of crisis.
19: Adam Thomson (26) v Matt Todd (29)
Thomson was electric in the manner that Todd has been workmanlike and efficient.
Thomson was able to play a role in the 2011 Rugby World Cup while Todd has had to contend himself with being Cane’s and Ardie Savea’s deputies despite his vast Super Rugby experience.
20: Piri Weepu (25) v TJ Perenara (25)
Weepu was a world class number nine who could be relied on to provide impact from the bench and start at the same time.
Perenara is in the same mould but he’s a distant second best to Smith but still a scrumhalf other test-playing nations would give an arm and a leg to have.
21: Stephen Donald (25) v Lima Sopoaga (26)
Donald was unfortunate to have played in Carter’s era but played a crucial role in the winning of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
He still remains a solid and reliable option for the Chiefs while Sopoaga’s is taking his chances now that Aaron
Cruden has gone overseas.
It shows how New Zealand have always invested in depth
22: Isaia Toeava (22) v David Havili (22)
The rugby world hopes they will see more of Havili than they did see of the electric Toeava.
The former Auckland fullback was superb but sustained competition from Muliaina and the rise of the now injured Israel Dagg lessened his stock.
Havili also has stiff competition at fullback but McKenzie also plays flyhalf‚ which could help him.
by Khanyiso Tshwaku — TimesLIVE