All Blacks v Springboks preview: ‘A big battle the world stops and looks at’
New Zealand v South Africa, Rugby Championship Round 4, 11.35am, OSN Sports
New Zealand and South Africa revisited one of rugby’s most notorious incidents Thursday and promised a fierce battle as the All Blacks bid to wrap up the Rugby Championship with two games to spare.
The world champions are runaway Rugby Championship leaders and a fourth straight bonus-point win on Saturday – provided Australia beat Argentina in Perth – would be enough to regain the southern hemisphere title.
But despite the unbeaten All Blacks’ fearsome form, they have history with South Africa and coaches Steve Hansen and Allister Coetzee said recent results would mean little in Christchurch.
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Hansen recalled the second Test in 1970, when Syd Nomis notoriously lost several teeth when he was felled by All Blacks fullback Fergie McCormick – who was roughed up so much in the third Test that he couldn’t start the fourth.
“One thing I’ll never forget is Fergie McCormick’s tackle on Syd Nomis and what happened afterwards,” Hansen said.
“The reason it sticks out is because, whilst it’s not what would happen in today’s game, it’s the ferociousness of how both teams attack each other and play and then afterwards it’s shake hands.”
Coetzee described All Black-Springbok Tests as “a big battle the world stops and looks at”.
“It’s going to be a physical battle, it’s going to be a battle of attrition and skill sets that will be tested,” he said.
To underscore their physical approach to the match, the Springboks have stacked their bench with six forwards and only two backs with a clear plan to use their muscle up front to starve the expressive All Black backs.
In their three Tests so far the All Blacks have scored 128 points including 18 tries, and conceded just 39 points.
South Africa, coming off a loss to Australia, have scored only seven tries, with 71 points for and 72 against.
Targeting the forwards “gives us a chance to stay in the game in the second half and even win it”, Coetzee said, adding that gaining control up front was paramount.
“It will be a battle of the set piece,” he said.
Hansen has made only one injury-forced change to the All Blacks, with Ardie Savea winning his first Test start following a hamstring injury to Sam Cane.
Savea’s explosive running has made him one of the stand-out players for Super Rugby champions Wellington Hurricanes, but Hansen warned his priorities are different at Test level.
Despite thrashing Argentina 57-22 last week, the All Blacks were exposed defensively around the ruck and that is to be Savea’s focus against South Africa.
“He’s now got to come out and do the work Sam’s been doing, the hard work,” Hansen said.
“He’s going to have to be strong in the tackle, strong over the ball. If he gets the opportunity to carry I think you’ll see that’s the natural side of his game, but the core roles he’s got he’s going to have to do really well.”
The All Blacks walloped the Wallabies in the first two rounds of the championship, and the Australians then beat South Africa.
But Hansen said the sequence of results would fire up the Springboks rather than intimidate them.
“They’re a very good side and backs against the wall they’ll be desperate, they’ll be hungry,” he said.
“History tells us, regardless of what either nation’s been doing prior to a Test match between each other, the game is always tight and tough and both teams have got a heck of a lot of pride.”
The last time the All Blacks played the Springboks they narrowly won 20-18 in the World Cup semi-final at Twickenham last year.
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Published: September 16, 2016 04:00 AM