Damian de Allende, right. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG
Damian de Allende, right. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG

Springboks centre Damian de Allende is not fazed by the prospect of facing a near full-strength New Zealand side that has been hugely boosted by the availability of several big guns ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown at the Westpac Stadium, writes Mahlatse Mphahlele.

Sam Cane, Ryan Cotty, Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane will be available after missing last weekend’s 46-24 victory over Argentina in Nelson, and coach Steve Hansen is expected to include them in the starting line-up against the Boks.

But a resolute De Allende was not too bothered by the return of these New Zealand stars and even said he was looking forward to facing the haka.

"You always want to measure yourself against big players and this is an opportunity for us as a team to see what we can do," he said.

"It’s always special and a motivation to face the haka. Every rugby player who wants to play for SA wants to face the haka," De Allende said.

‘‘When the haka is done, we will have to play a game of rugby and I hope that we execute our plans well, because if we can stick to the plan for 80 minutes, we will have a chance of winning the match."

The Boks have been under huge pressure after successive losses to Argentina in Mendoza and Australia in Brisbane.

Despite the challenges and the pressure on beleaguered coach Rassie Erasmus, De Allende said the Bok mentor had helped him to grow as a player.

"The main thing from him has been about simplifying everything," he said.

"Sometimes as SA we try to complicate things.

"The way we are coached in SA, we look at the game from a different angle, but he has a different way of coaching and he has brought a new dimension to the game."

De Allende was backed up by flanker Francois Louw, who said they were expecting a physical battle against the All Blacks.

"We will do our homework and analyse them," Louw said.

"They have had a lot of rugby over the past few months.

"We will look at them at areas where they can influence the game. Our game will not only be formulated at their weak points but more at where our strengths are. There will be areas where we believe we can have a bigger influence, but the biggest thing for us will be our strengths."

Erasmus is also likely to make a few changes, with Handrè Pollard replacing Elton Jantjies and Malcolm Marx starting in the place of Bongi Mbonambi.

Erasmus must also find a replacement for the injured Makazole Mapimpi.

Indications are that he may be tempted to put Jesse Kriel at right wing with Lukhanyo Am slotting in at centre.

"We have Cheslin Kolbe with us, who played a full second half last Saturday against the Wallabies on the wing," said Erasmus.

"But we have some other options as well, such as Jesse Kriel and even Lukhanyo Am, who has played some rugby out on the wing."