Kiwi defence has point to prove

All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read says the Springbok attack will be difficult to contain at Ellis Park on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

Last week, the Boks lost 24-20 to the Wallabies in Brisbane. While the result was disappointing, there were moments in that clash where the Boks played some thrilling rugby.

Bismarck du Plessis was outstanding at the breakdown, and the Bok backs used the turnover ball to good effect. The Boks have worked hard to improve in these areas of the game over the past three years, and those improvements have not gone unnoticed.

On Tuesday, All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read was asked about the Boks’ strengths, and where exactly the visitors expected to be tested. Read then proceeded to talk up the Boks’ running game.

‘They always come hard at you up front, but what’s really been a factor over the past few years is their counter-attack,’ Read said. ‘They certainly have the boys out wide to hurt you.’

Handré Pollard started at No 10 in the two Tests against New Zealand in 2014, and scored two tries in the second fixture in Johannesburg. Read admitted that the All Blacks would need to keep an eye on the South African flyhalf this coming Saturday.

‘He’s very good at identifying the gap, and then taking it. We will have to be careful, and really up our defensive game.’

The Boks are missing a number of senior players due to injuries, and will not be at full-strength when they host the All Blacks this weekend. As reported on Monday, stand-in skipper and veteran lock Victor Matfield is set to miss the clash.

Read played down the talk of the Boks lacking punch up front and experience out wide.

‘To be honest, I don’t read about what’s happening in the local press. My Afrikaans isn’t that great,’ he chirped.

‘If you look at that group, there's still a lot of quality. A few of the younger players will be looking to impress the coach in what is a big game.

‘We’re in the same boat. It’s still going to be a big occasion, and we love playing here in South Africa.’

Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli