The All Blacks still feel that they have what it takes to outlast the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Following the Boks’ loss to the All Blacks at Ellis Park last year, coach Heyneke Meyer admitted that his charges were the inferior outfit. Neutrals would declare that contest the best of the 2013 season, even though there was only one team in it during the final quarter.
The Boks have come a long way since that defeat. They pushed the All Blacks close in the most recent meeting between the two sides in Wellington, and ultimately it was a poor decision that cost them victory rather than a drop in intensity.
They then upped the ante in the game against the Wallabies at Newlands, scoring 20 points in the last 10 minutes. Meyer now feels that this team is well placed to compete with the All Blacks over the course of 80 minutes.
The Boks are unlikely to match the All Blacks for game plan and tempo this Saturday, but what we can expect is a lift in intensity from the South Africans during the final 20 minutes. This much was relayed by forwards coach Johann van Graan on Tuesday.
‘We didn’t finish well in the match against them last year. It’s something we’ve addressed. We know we have to produce an accurate performance over the 80 minutes, and use all 23 players to achieve our objective,’ he said. ‘We’ve started to see that over the past few games, and this coming weekend against the All Blacks is an opportunity to make a statement against the best side in the world.’
The All Blacks, however, remain confident that they can outlast the Boks. While No 8 Kieran Read conceded that South Africa had improved their conditioning since October 2013, he gave the impression that New Zealand are still one step ahead.
‘We want to play a quick game, and hopefully we will tire them out on Saturday,’ Read said. ‘Our conditioning is at a great level, and the travel fatigue [resulting from a journey to South Africa from Argentina] won’t be a factor for us.’
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said the tourists remain motivated for the clash, despite having already won the Rugby Championship title. The Boks’ improvement will make for a closer contest, but like Read, Foster is backing New Zealand to prevail at the death.
‘The Boks have a stronger 23 than they did last year, and the strategy of using that 23 is also a lot better,’ Foster said. ‘That’s been one of our real strengths in recent years.
‘It’s going to be a great challenge for both teams in those dying stages. There’s no such thing as a meaningless Test match when the All Blacks and Boks are involved, and we also believe we can get better as a team. We need to keep climbing.’
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