Kiwis want trial by fire

The All Blacks hope the Springboks will provide them with the challenge they need in the buildup to the World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

This All Blacks group never ceases to impress with their attitude. They’re a confident, ambitious bunch, which is some statement considering they’ve already won a World Cup and three consecutive Rugby Championship titles.

If their latest media offerings in Johannesburg are anything to go by, they’re gunning for a fourth. They’re also building towards the global tournament in England later this year. This group could well become the first team in history to win back-to-back World Cups. Evidently, there is something left to achieve.

On Monday, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick said there's plenty to be gained from the coming clash against the Boks, both in a Rugby Championship and World Cup context.

The 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year confirmed that the All Blacks are looking to take their game to another level. Interestingly, he believes the Boks can help the All Blacks get there.

Bok captain and lineout maestro Victor Matfield will miss the clash at Ellis Park due to a hamstring injury. Retallick was asked whether the All Blacks, who have been undone by Matfield at the lineout on many occasions in the past, will breathe a sigh of a relief after hearing that the veteran lock has been sidelined.

Retallick, however, answered in the negative.

‘Actually. I’d like to play against him. Everybody knows how good he is, and I would relish a chance to play against the best.

‘We’ve been looking forward to this opportunity, a chance to test ourselves,’ added Retallick. ‘No doubt the Boks will look to attack us in that area after we conceded two tries via the lineout maul [against Argentina] last week.’

Foster played down the absence of Matfield. He believes the Boks will front at Ellis Park, and demand the very best of this All Blacks outfit.

‘South Africa have never been short on quality locks,’ he told ‘We saw it last week [after Matfield left the field in the 18th minute]. While they lost a bit at lineout time they gained something around the park. Their locks are very big on work-rate.

‘The focus is probably on the big prize at the end,’ added Foster in reference to the All Blacks building towards the 2015 World Cup tournament. ‘It’s probably the common denominator between us and South Africa. There are some strong objectives for this game. We’re playing an old foe, a top team in the world.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity to test ourselves. We have an eye on the future, but we haven’t lost focus on the task this week. If we don’t execute this week we will lose an opportunity to get some information about where we are at as a group.

'It’s not about gaining a psychological advantage [for the World Cup], it’s about producing a good performance and confirming we’re on the right track.’

Foster said the All Blacks will need to be more clinical than they were in Christchurch last week, and more accurate than they were in the game against the Boks in Johannesburg last year. Referee Wayne Barnes penalised the All Blacks late in that game, and reserve flyhalf Pat Lambie kicked a 55m penalty to win the Test 27-25 for the Boks.

‘Over time, it’s become clear that Barnes made right call,’ Foster said. ‘Maybe what we’ve learned from that is that we don’t want to be in a position where we are vulnerable to a last-minute refereeing decision. Ultimately, we’ve got to take control ourselves.

'Discipline needs to be better. There was a period of the game against Argentina where our discipline wasn’t great. We conceded soft penalties, conceded territory, and then conceded two tries. We can’t do that this coming Saturday. Nobody has forgotten about Lambie’s kick last year.’

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Post by