Boks vow improved performance

The Springboks have promised a sharply improved performance in the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday to avoid a 0-2 start to the defence of their Tri-Nations title.

The Springboks said they played poorly when they lost 32-12 in last weekend’s first Test at Eden Park, and are out to recapture the form that gave them three wins over the All Blacks in last year’s Tri-Nations series.

New Zealand’s win at Auckland was comprehensive, however, and South Africa need a massive form reversal to have any chance of leaving New Zealand for Australia with a 1-1 record.

Winger Joe Rokocoko and scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan were ruled out of New Zealand’s team on Thursday because of injury. Rokocoko has a strained hamstring and was replaced by Rene Ranger, who will make his first start for the All Blacks.

Cowan, who has an abdominal strain, was named among the reserves, with Piri Weepu handed a starting spot.

The only changes the Springboks made were forced by an injury to prop Jannie du Plessis and the suspension of lock Bakkies Botha.

Coach Peter de Villiers and captain John Smit have expressed confidence in the players beaten at Auckland to turn the tables on the All Blacks at Wellington.

De Villiers said South Africa had “a bad day” at Eden Park and the same players were capable of making amends.

“I trust the bunch of people that are with me, they just weren’t on song last weekend,” he said. “These boys are much better than what they showcased on Saturday. They just had a bad game and I expect them to be back to form this weekend.

“When Tiger Woods has a bad day, it doesn’t mean he’s not the No 1 golf player in the world. He’s just had a bad day.”

Smit was also confident South Africa had the resources to reverse last weekend’s loss, though neither he nor De Villiers signalled a change to the tactics that proved ineffective in Auckland. “It won’t happen everyday that everybody is 1% off their game, and if you are 1% off against a team like the All Blacks, then you will get hammered,” Smit said.

New Zealand nullified South Africa’s set pieces in Auckland, denying them the platform from which to impose themselves on the game.

The All Blacks’ additional superiority at breakdowns allowed them to play with pace and width, which is their strength, but not South Africa’s.

New Zealand co-coach Wayne Smith doubted the Springboks would attempt a major tactical change in Wellington.

“It can go either way, you can change your game or you can try what you are doing better—with more passion and a different mentality,” Smith said. “And I imagine that will be the route that they will take.”

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Rene Ranger; Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino; Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Jimmy Cowan, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner; Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Ricky Januarie; Pierre Spies, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger; Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw; CJ van der Linde, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Gio Aplon.—Sapa-AP

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