Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says his side have to be at their best when they face the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship in Wellington on Saturday.
Erasmus has named a much-changed starting lineup from the one that beat the Wallabies in Johannesburg last weekend. Only Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi and Pieter-Steph du Toit retain their places in the starting XV.
The captaincy will however shift from Etzebeth, who led the team against the Wallabies, to No 8 Duane Vermeulen, with Siya Kolisi likely to be involved in Currie Cup action as he continues his comeback from injury.
‘It is important that we continue to build on our leadership for this important year, especially while our regular skipper, Siya Kolisi, is out of action because of injury rehabilitation,’ Erasmus said.
‘Duane is an experienced captain and we have a strong group of leaders in the team, which includes Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who have both captained the Springboks before, as well as a number of other franchise captains.’
Erasmus added that he expects a titanic struggle in Wellington, where the Boks beat the All Blacks on an away trip last year for the first time since 2009.
‘We have the utmost respect for the All Blacks who are the undisputed No 1 rugby team in the world.
‘We know we will have to be at our very best to be competitive against the All Blacks on Saturday and that is why we have sent a group of players in advance to Wellington, so they could acclimatise after the long trip over from South Africa.
‘The New Zealanders are a very experienced and settled side while we have some catching up to do in terms of where the two sides are at the moment.
‘They are bringing back their Crusaders players, who were all rested after the Vodacom Super Rugby final, so we are in for a huge battle against the best team in the world,’ added Erasmus.
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