Pack and play: All Blacks captain Kieran Read, centre, and teammates unload luggage at their Cape Town hotel on Monday. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES
Pack and play: All Blacks captain Kieran Read, centre, and teammates unload luggage at their Cape Town hotel on Monday. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES

The All Blacks had travelled 20 hours from Buenos Aires, via Sao Paolo and Johannesburg, to Cape Town and it was 32°C outside their hotel, but the entire team — from coach Steve Hansen to captain Kieran Read — unpacked a truck full of kit before checking in.

It was an impressive display of their egalitarian set-up, with everyone rolling up their sleeves for the common good.

That trait carries over to the rugby field, where the All Blacks epitomise the word "team" even though they have some of the best rugby players in the world.

Winning the Rugby Championship for the fifth time in six years was achieved with one round to spare, but for the All Blacks there is no resting on past achievements. They are already looking ahead and are not getting carried away, rather focusing on the Springboks.

Nowadays most South Africans chuckle at the notion of the Boks being a "challenge" for the All Blacks after the world champions won 57-0 in Albany three weeks ago. New Zealand have won their last three Tests against the Boks by an aggregate score of 52-9.

It certainly does not look and feel as if a rivalry still exists between the sides, as they prepare to meet for the 95th time at Newlands on Saturday. But All Blacks coach Hansen and flank Sam Cane believe it does.

"That score a few weeks ago was not a fair reflection of where the Boks are at, at the moment," Cane said.

"They’ve lost a lot of experienced and iconic players in the past couple of years, but talking to some of their players after the match, they were extremely disappointed how the game went but positive about what they’re building towards.

"They’ve established a new leadership group and they have a lot of youth in the squad. They feel like they’re building towards something bigger.

"I said it before Albany – in my opinion, the rivalry is still strong. We’re very much in touch with the history and how tough games in the past have been," said Cane.

"There are small margins in Test rugby and if they go your way and you put an opponent on the back foot early, it’s tough to swing those back. We know that we have to be right on our game to get the result we want this weekend, otherwise it will be a real arm-wrestle."

The Boks have tried to reinvent themselves by keeping the ball in hand and playing a more attacking style through maintaining possession rather than searching for territory. The approach came unstuck in Albany, where many turnovers led to tries for the All Blacks on their way to a record win.

Bok coach Allister Coetzee has indicated that his side will not change their approach after months of working towards a more positive game plan.

Hansen backed SA to keep at it. "I thought the Boks were dangerous against Australia [in last Saturday’s 27-27 draw in Bloemfontein] and if they were a little more accurate at times, they would have scored some more points," Hansen said.

"If they keep doing what they’re doing and keep growing that, and get better at it, the type of game they’re trying to play suits them. It will make them dangerous in the future.

"If you ask our guys after the game in North Harbour [in Albany], while the score looked big, they knew they had been in a contest," Hansen said.

"We were pretty fortunate because we created chances and took them and they didn’t take all of theirs."


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