The All Blacks are geared for a “huge battle” in Saturday’s Tri-Nations rugby rematch as the wounded Springboks draw on lessons from the past to ignite a form revival.
The Springboks were embarrassed by the way they were outclassed in last week’s 32-12 thrashing when the world’s top two sides clashed in the opening match of the series.
The World Champions are desperate to repair their reputation after the All Blacks bagged four tries to nil and forced them to play second-fiddle in their scrum and lineout stronghold.
With forecast rain in Wellington suiting the Springboks’ forward power game more than the All Blacks’ preference for slick, running rugby, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is predicting a much closer contest.
“Wet weather usually means there’s going to be even more emphasis on the physical battle and that’s something that’s going to be huge, whether it’s dry or wet,” McCaw said as the All Blacks wrapped up training on Friday.
“They’re going to be pretty physical. That was a part of the game last week they didn’t get right and we’ve got to make sure we can match that.”
Springbok captain John Smit only had to look back two years to find a reason why his side can turn the tables.
After a 19-8 drubbing in the first Test in Wellington that year the Springboks bounced back to produce a dramatic 30-28 victory a week later and register their first ever win at the Carisbrook ground in Dunedin.
“It’s the experiences from that turnaround week that the guys will hold on to,” he said.
“The guys on that trip will have those memories of what can be done and what should be done if you apply yourself.”
There are seven survivors from the South African side who started that Test, including halfback Ricky Januarie who scored the match-winning try in the final minute.
‘It’s about being able to back it up’
McCaw also drew motivation from that Test but for the opposite reason, saying the All Blacks could not afford to become complacent and drop away from the standard they set last week.
“From our point of view we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for whatever they throw at us,” he said.
“Last week everyone was wondering where we were at, and the challenge this week is to be able to back up the performance that we put together last week.
“You put pressure on yourself to do that and make sure that the guys are aware that it’s easy to do it once, but it’s about being able to back it up.”
Both sides have made two changes from the first Test with the All Blacks bringing in Rene Ranger for injured wing Joe Rokocoko and starting with Piri Weepu at halfback ahead of Jimmy Cowan.
Ranger, in only his second Test, is rated by his coaches as a player with the “X-factor”, but he could be suspect under the aerial bombardment that is sure to be fired by Springboks flyhalf Morne Steyn.
The Springboks have brought in CJ van der Linde for injured prop Jannie de Plessis and Danie Rossouw replaces the suspended Bakkies Botha.
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 Oliver, 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.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRL) — AFP