Ryan Crotty says Codie Taylor has what it takes to best opposite number Malcolm Marx in what should be a bruising forward battle at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports from Johannesburg.
The Boks trained on the outer fields at Loftus on Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, some 40km down the road, a couple of All Blacks waxed lyrical about the coming clash and how much the result means to both teams.
The Boks have spoken about following up their recent 36-34 win in Wellington with a victory over the All Blacks in South Africa. It’s been nine years since the Boks scored back-to-back wins against their traditional foes.
Going by what’s been said at recent press conferences, however, the All Blacks won’t want for motivation either. Crotty and Taylor reiterated the point when they chatted to the media from the side’s base in Sandton on Tuesday.
It’s not enough that the Rugby Championship title is already in the bag. The All Blacks are desperate to atone for the recent loss.
Marx troubled the All Blacks at the set pieces and breakdowns in the home fixture against the All Blacks last October. The hooker was one of the standouts when the Boks prevailed in New Zealand two weeks ago.
Taylor admitted that the All Blacks have spoken about Marx and what side needs to do to nullify his influence.
‘He can really build momentum for them. We’ve previewed the whole team, and he’s one of their strengths,’ the All Blacks hooker said.
‘He’s great over the ball and a threat with ball in hand … as are their locks and loosies if you look at the way Siya Kolisi is playing at the moment. [Marx] is really leading the pack around the field and is a huge confidence-booster for them.
‘We won’t focus on one player, though. We have to nullify that whole side.’
Marx is the best hooker in Test rugby at present, and it would be some statement if Taylor outplayed him at Loftus this weekend. When pressed to offer more on the one-on-one battle, Taylor said that he didn’t want to limit his focus to one player.
At this point in the press conference, Crotty took control of the conversation to ensure that the media understood what the All Blacks have in Taylor.
‘Let me jump in here. Codie doesn’t like talking about himself, so I will do it for him,’ Crotty began.
‘I’ve been watching him grow. I’ve seen his game go to another level this year, especially at the Crusaders. He’s a massive reason why we were so successful, especially on defence.
‘He takes on a lot of leadership with regards to driving the defence. He’s a very intelligent hooker … and I’d take him over Marx every day of the week.’
On Monday, Bok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot described the All Blacks pack – and their scrum in particular – as the best in the world. Taylor will have a key role to play for the visitors at the lineouts, but as Proudfoot said, the scrums could be as important to either team’s attacking success.
Proudfoot made mention of how the All Blacks scrum has attacked the opposition tighthead in recent matches. Taylor looks set to resume his partnership with loosehead Karl Tu’inukuafe when the team packs down against the Boks this Saturday.
‘Karl loves to scrum,’ Taylor said with a laugh that suggested this is an understatement.
‘Sometimes you see him running around the park and he’s absolutely blowing. Then there’s a scrum, and suddenly he’s ready to go again. He’s excited to get stuck into the opposition tighthead.
‘For such a quiet humble guy, he turns into a beast when there’s a scrum.’
Both sets of teams will be announced on Thursday.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 2, 2018
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images