The All Blacks would far rather be playing South Africa than Ireland in this weekend’s Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
That’s the call from Queenstown-based TV rugby commentator, former All Black Justin Marshall, who’s in France with South Africa’s SuperSport after missing selection for Sky Sport New Zealand’s world cup team.
Marshall’s view is based on Ireland, who are on a 17-Test winning streak, having confirmed their No 1 status in pool play, including beating two tough opponents — and on the ABs having lost their last two Tests against them.
By contrast, ‘‘we just know [South Africa] can have an off-day and we can pick them apart’’.
Against Ireland, ‘‘we probably aren’t the favourites which I think could be a good thing’’.
‘‘It doesn’t mean we’re not capable or we haven’t got the personnel to fire some shots across their bow they won’t be able to handle, but we’ve just got to come up with that real quick.’’
Sunday’s match (NZ time) is also unique for Marshall, as it’ll be the first time since his retirement from rugby in 2010 that he’s attended an ABs Test ‘‘as a genuine fan’’.
For Monday’s (NZ time) quarter-final, between South Africa and France, Marshall’s picking the former will win.
He feels the French team’s obsession with the return from injury of their star no.9, Antoine Dupont, will be a distraction for his teammates.
Also, the Springboks are staying in a hotel about 30km from Paris – “they’re away from all the hype, they’ll be gnawing on T-bone steaks all week, really pissed off”.
With more freedom to move around France than if he’d been with the Sky Sport team, Marshall says he’s had time to catch up with a lot of former teammates and opponents — ‘‘I think it’s probably been the highlight for me’’.
His other highlight was taking in the incredible atmosphere of the first day of the Ryder Cup golf tourney between Europe and the United States in Rome.