Rookie prop Joe Moody says he’s itching for a crack at veteran tighthead Jannie du Plessis at Ellis Park this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Brodie Retallick have been ruled out of the coming clash due to injuries. It’s a big blow for an All Blacks side that has a lot to prove at the set pieces, particularly at the scrum.
While the Boks lost 14-10 to the All Blacks in Wellington, they have taken some heart from what was a powerful scrummaging performance. Late in that contest, the Boks won a tighthead at a scrum held deep in All Blacks territory. This set up the visitors for one final assault on the All Blacks tryline.
Ultimately, that tighthead so nearly cost the All Blacks the result. Moody was on the park at that stage of the game, as was hooker Keven Mealamu.
The two front rankers as well as lock Jeremy Thrush will start in a revamped All Blacks tight five this Saturday. The match at the weekend should reveal how much the All Blacks have improved since the game in Wellington, and whether Moody has what it takes to outscrum the 59-Test veteran Jannie du Plessis.
‘I’m grateful for this opportunity,’ said Moody, a former wrestler for Team New Zealand at the Junior Commonwealth Games. ‘I can’t say it has come as a surprise. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I feel I am ready and am looking forward to the contest.
‘Jannie enjoys attacking the opposition hooker at scrum time,’ Moody added, inferring that Du Plessis may look to target Mealamu this Saturday. ‘Back home in New Zealand, we scrum a bit differently, we like to go straight through.’
Du Plessis will start alongside his brother, Bismarck, as well as Sharks teammate Beast Mtawarira. Eben Etzebeth and Victor Matfield will complete what is a formidable Bok tight five.
The All Blacks are favourites to win on the scoreboard this Saturday, and the favourites to win many of the contests within the contest. The most important battle, according to their coach however, will be upfront.
‘The game is going to be won in the tight five,’ Steve Hansen said. ‘That's where both sides will be striving for dominance.’
While Hansen conceded the All Blacks weren’t at their best in the previous game against the Boks, he is confident that New Zealand will be up to the scrummaging challenge at Ellis Park.
‘We’ll certainly have to scrum better on Saturday than we did in Wellington,’ he said. ‘I thought we scrummed well against Argentina [in La Plata] last week, and they outscrummed the Boks [previously]. So we’re in a good space.’
With regards to the lineouts, Hansen feels that Thrush will offset the loss of Retallick. The All Blacks coach said the return of Sam Whitelock, who missed the last match against the Boks because of injury, was significant, and that the visitors now have a player who can combat Matfield.
Matfield has a good record against the All Blacks in this area, especially when Mealamu has been tasked with feeding the ball to the New Zealand lineout. On Thursday, the All Blacks hooker took this criticism in good humour, and admitted that it would be tough going up against Matfield once more.
‘The big man’s had a lot of success in the past, he’s always looking to cut me off,’ said Mealamu. ‘But I’ve just got to back myself and follow my process. There’s a big job to do this weekend, and I have to get it right.’
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