All Blacks brace for Springboks raid
The All Blacks expect to be targeted by an aerial bombardment as South Africa search for a way to break the world champions’ stranglehold on the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
The Springboks’ strategy appears anchored around five-eighth Morne Steyn and centre Francois Steyn kicking for territory and followed by any drop-goal opportunoities and penalties on offer.
The All Blacks go into the match unbeaten after three rounds and on a 13-game winning streak, just five short of the world record of 18 straight wins by Lithuania – against the likes of Israel and Austria – from 2006 to 2010.
South Africa are second on the championship table but have only one win to their credit, and have drawn and lost their last two games.
While the visitors fancy reversing their fortunes with the boot, New Zealand will persist with their high-octane running game, although this has been compromised a little with halfback Aaron Smith benched for breaking team protocols.
Piri Weepu steps into the No.9 position and although he does not possess Smith’s speed to the breakdown nor his rapid pass, after 62 Tests he does have a superior ability to read the game.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has been unable to hide his frustration at the high error count that has detracted from their wins against Australia and Argentina, and he wants an improvement against South Africa.
“What we’ve got to get right is being able to build pressure on the opposition rather than put it on ourselves,” he said on Friday.
“They kick a bit but they’re pretty good at chasing it and (if) you get the ball at the right end of the field and, if you make mistakes under pressure, they’ve got guys who will make you pay.”
The All Blacks’ patchy performances have not gone unnoticed by Springboks captain Jean de Villiers, who rated the hosts as “fantastic at times”.
“I think about their last Test against Ireland (60-0) and 22-0 against Australia. That type of results is pretty special and they’re probably not even firing on all cylinders, so it’s a great challenge for us.”
However, de Villiers, who played in the Springboks’ first victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin when they won 30-28 at the now defunct “House of Pain” Carisbrook ground in 2008, said the result was not a foregone conclusion.
Although South Africa drew against Argentina and then lost to Australia in their past two matches, Morne Steyn maintained their tactics suited what they wanted to achieve.
“We as a team also work on things and try to move the ball as well but we’re not just kicking the ball away, we are kicking for a reason. I think that’s what people outside don’t realise.”
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (capt), Frans Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Tiaan Liebenberg, Dean Greyling, Andries Bekker, Marcell Coetzee, Johan Goosen, Juan de Jongh, Patrick Lambie.© AFP 2013
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