Frans Malherbe says the Springboks are ready for an all-out scrum battle against the All Blacks when the two teams collide in the opening Test of the Rugby Championship in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The bitter rivals will cross paths at the Mbombela Stadium, and with the All Blacks having appointed Jason Ryan as new forwards coach, Malherbe expects a massive challenge up front for the Bok pack.
“The All Blacks always have a good scrum, and we will be in big trouble if we underestimate them. They are always a formidable side and after losing two Tests against Ireland, they will be desperate to bounce back,” the World Cup-winning tighthead prop said.
“They will be very dangerous now. That said, our focus is on our game and to ensure that we constantly improve in the execution of our gameplan.”
The All Blacks will face the world champions on the back of four losses in five Tests, but Bok assistant coach Deon Davids refuses to entertain suggestions that New Zealand are at their most vulnerable.
“There’s never a Test where we underestimate the opposition, nor do we generalise the opinions of others,” Davids said.
“It’s important that we be at our best for every Test and history will tell you that Tests against New Zealand are closely contested. We understand that as a team, they’re desperate to put up better performances, but we’re also in the same position to improve our game.
“Our preparation [and] attitude towards this game hasn’t changed. It’s about us being the best we can be.
“We have a lot of respect for the way New Zealand approaches the set pieces, and their coach [Ian Foster] has made it clear that the scrums and mauls are going to be important for them, so we also need to make sure that improve in those areas,” he added.
“The basics of the game stay the same, so we need to be more effective all around. We want to improve in the execution of our set pieces, and we know that there are not many opportunities to score points at Test level, so we have to make sure we use our chances well.
“We know what we have to work as we look forward to the bigger picture. We have two Tests against New Zealand at the start of this competition, and we are aware of the challenge ahead. We know we need to perform better in this series, and we are determined to improve.”