Ian Foster. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Ian Foster. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The All Blacks continued to make all the right noises about their traditional rivalry with the Springboks and how much SA forces more from them, despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

The sides meet at Newlands on Saturday in the final round of the Rugby Championship, with the title already back in the All Blacks’ hands for a fifth time in six years.

New Zealand players and coaches have been on a charm offensive, talking up the hosts, Cape Town, Newlands, fans and maybe even the giant tortoises that roam the gardens of their plush southern suburbs hotel.

You would swear recent contests between the sides had all been on a knife’s edge.

After thrashing the Boks 57-0 in Albany nearly three weeks ago, and 57-15 in Durban and 41-13 in Christchurch in 2016, the gap between the sides appears to be widening.

But, anyone intimately involved suggests that it is all an illusion, the scores do not matter and the Boks are much closer to the All Blacks’ standard than those results show.

"We felt that the Boks put us under pressure in the first 40 minutes of that game in Albany," All Black assistant coach Ian Foster said.

"The Boks took the game to us, but we hung in there."

While the Springboks have enjoyed some periods of good rugby in all those matches, they have not been good enough to capitalise on them and have paid the price.

The reason the visitors say the rivalry is still in rude health, though, is that the home team tends to focus the All Blacks’ attention so narrowly that they save their best performances for their old foes. And they have delivered some of their finest performances in recent times against SA.

Foster was happy to feed the narrative. "Yes, they [the Boks] bring out a little extra in us," he said. "It’s hard to explain, but when you’re a player on the field, and it’s SA versus New Zealand, there is no quarter given. If there is anything less than 100% commitment in a player’s mind, you’ll see it. So for us, these are the special games, particularly when you come to SA," he said.

"We want to put a complete 80-minute performance on the park, and I don’t think we’ve done that yet. That is what drives us," Foster said.

It will be the All Blacks’ first visit to Newlands since 2008 when they beat the Boks 19-0. In nine visits to the Mother City, the All Blacks have won six times and they have won three of the previous four meetings in the professional era.

Although none of the current All Black squad has played a Test match at Newlands, most of the players are familiar with Cape Town and Newlands through Super Rugby commitments.

Flank Sam Cane is making his fifth visit in two years.

"We haven’t played at Newlands for a long time," Foster said. "It’s a ground steeped in history. These games are special and we love them.

"We had an amazing welcome at the airport and we are appreciative of it.

"The fans here get in behind us and it’s a special feeling.

"The fans have also growled at us for not coming here for nine years and all I can say is that it is not our fault.

"For some reason, SA don’t want to play us here.

"But to come to Cape Town and have local people singing your national anthem as we’re boarding the bus is pretty cool."

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