All Blacks v Springboks: ‘You’re going to get physicality’ says Hansen

'It's going to be tough and you wouldn't want it any other way' says New Zealand coach Steve Hansen ahead of the much-anticipated clash between the Nos 1 and 2 Test sides in the world on Saturday in the Rugby Championship.

Brodie Retallick, centre, and New Zealand's All Blacks are anticipating a tough match in the Rugby Championship against South Africa's Springboks. Michael Bradley / AFP
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The All Blacks’ strength in depth faces a critical examination when they play South Africa on Saturday in a showdown between the world’s top two sides a year out from the World Cup.

“You’re going to get physicality and it’s going to be tough and you wouldn’t want it any other way,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of the fourth-round Rugby Championship encounter in Wellington.

“It’s not about talking it up, neither side is like that. Both teams just get on with the job and the opportunity to have a one-two clash is always exciting.”

Both rugby heavyweights have expressed a desire for an open game, although injuries have forced the All Blacks to dig deep with their forward selections.

Their sixth-ranked lock Jeremy Thrush gets a start along with loose forward Steven Luatua, who was deemed not fit enough to be part of the side just three months ago.

While the All Blacks have been forced to shore up their pack, Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has enough confidence in his forwards to retain the same eight who started in last week’s 24-23 loss to Australia.

But in the backs it is a different story with Meyer taking the bold move of replacing proven match-winner Morne Steyn with 20-year-old Handre Pollard at fly-half.

“The forwards are settled but we’re struggling to get continuity in the backs,” he said of appointing Pollard, who has played just three Tests, as the playmaker against the All Blacks.

“I don’t think you’re going to beat the All Blacks, especially away from home, if you just do the conventional.

“Before the World Cup I have to expose him. He could be a big force. He’s big and strong, a brilliant defender with a good kicking game and he’s an unbelievable attacking player.”

It is a selection that Hansen acknowledged could strengthen the Springboks attack with Pollard’s direct approach putting pressure on the defensive abilities of All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden, who returns after recovering from a chest muscle injury.

Hansen also dismissed talk of Pollard’s lack of Test experience, recalling his time as Wales coach in 2003 when Dan Carter made his Test debut and “smashed us”, scoring 20 points in the All Blacks 55-3 victory.

Hansen saw enough in Thrush, who replaced the injured Sam Whitelock in the first half of the 28-9 win against Argentina, to retain him in the middle row, before deciding to recall Luatua to replace Liam Messam.

He debated whether to move Richie McCaw to the blindside and start Sam Cane as openside flanker before opting in favour of the 1.94 metre (6ft 4in) Luatua’s superior aerial skills.

“He learnt the hard way, but he’s learnt a valuable lesson and hopefully he can carry that with him for the rest of his career,” he said of Luatua’s return to fitness.

“He’s certainly worked hard and now we expect him to play that way.”

All Blacks and Springboks often produce brutal clashes in their constant battle for supremacy in world rugby and although New Zealand have come out on top for the past three years Hansen conceded the two Tests last year could have gone the other way.

“The South Africans only lost two games last year, so if we’re being honest they could have been two games we lost,” he said.

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