The All Blacks are not a bridge over troubled waters for the Springboks but they still represent a significant challenge ahead of Saturday’s Test at Loftus Versfeld.
The Springboks were not expected to win in Wellington three weeks ago, but they did. By extension, the expectation has swelled and the 23-12 win against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth last week has put the Boks under pressure.
The Rugby Championship may be out of reach after New Zealand took care of Argentina on Sunday but the 97th encounter between SA and New Zealand has a different level of expectancy now.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said they have been happy to improve but they need to get the business done between the four lines.
He also made three changes to the side that beat Australia, with Francois Louw, Damian de Allende and Steven Kitshoff coming in for Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andre Esterhuizen and Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira.
"If we’re going to win again, it’s progress, and I think that’s what we’ve been striving for since we started out in June against England, and there have been times when we’ve gone back a step or two.
"Playing the No1 side in the world and having another chance to beat them would be such a massive lift for our confidence, hopes and aspirations to be one of the top two teams in the world, but that’s much easier said than done," Erasmus said.
"We know it would mean a lot but it doesn’t help if we dream about it. We have to go out there and do it."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made four changes to the side that beat the Pumas in Buenos Aires, with the surprise being Crusaders outside centre Jack Goodhue getting a start ahead of Ryan Crotty.
Richie Mo’unga will again feature on the bench while Kieran Read, Owen Franks and Aaron Smith start. Hansen said the Bok Test is one they always look forward to. "These are Test matches that you live for. I’ve been around for a while now and they have never been anything other than a great opportunity to enjoy rugby for what it is. SA is one of the teams that we respect the most because of our history. History is important to any team and they’re good sportsmen regardless of the result," Hansen said.
"We’re in enemy territory and that’s going to make things very tough, but challenging and exciting," he said.
The All Blacks seldom lose, and when they do, they do not forget. The Wellington defeat is one they will not forget soon, with Hansen saying this will bring an edge to the Test.
There is also the matter of the All Blacks having not lost a Test at Loftus Versfeld in the professional era, but Hansen did not worry himself about that statistic. "Angst is an edge because we’ve lost to these guys, and not fear. Whenever you lose to somebody, you automatically get that. It’s not fear but it’s an understanding that guys are good enough to beat you if you don’t front up and do the job properly. That’s when you’ve got a real Test match on your hands. They beat us last time so there’s an edge that maybe hasn’t been there for a while."