The All Blacks are looking to inflict further psychological damage on the Springbok at Ellis Park this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
The three-time Rugby Championship winners and current world champions arrived in Johannesburg on Monday afternoon. While the flight from Argentina to South Africa via Brazil had evidently taken its toll on the players’ bodies, their minds remained sharp and their mission clear when confronted by the local press corps.
This past Saturday, the All Blacks scored a bonus-point win against Argentina to clinch the Rugby Championship title. There is nothing left to play for in the context of tournament position, as the All Blacks cannot be overtaken at the top of the log.
And yet, as All Blacks forwards Sam Cane and Sam Whitelock were keen to impress on Monday, there is a lot to be gained from the coming clash at Ellis Park.
The All Blacks have not lost a game since December 2012. They have won their last five Tests against the Boks, and would love nothing more than to maintain that 100% record with another victory against their arch rivals this weekend.
‘For an All Blacks pack, it doesn’t get any bigger than playing the Boks in South Africa,’ Cane said. ‘We won’t be lacking for motivation. In fact, if we can get a win this Saturday, it will really hurt them.’
This is likely to be the last time both teams field full-strength sides against one another before the global tournament. Both will be looking to make one final statement.
New Zealand will be aiming to maintain their mental hold over the South Africans, while the Boks will be looking to break the shackles. From the Boks' viewpoint, it's important that they score at least one win against the All Blacks before the World Cup. They need to know they can beat New Zealand rather than just believe it's a possibility.
The All Blacks are expecting the Boks to throw absolutely everything at them this Saturday. Whitelock was asked about the influence of Victor Matfield this past season, and agreed that the veteran had lifted the standards at the Bok lineout. However, what has really impressed Whitelock and many of the All Blacks is the improvements made by South Africa on attack.
‘I think they’re dangerous,’ the All Blacks lock said. ‘They’ve been playing with good speed, and we will have to shut them down. They’re not one-dimensional as some people have suggested, they’re a real threat to our defence. They had us under pressure in Wellington, and we will need to be at the top of our game this weekend if we're going to keep them out.’
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