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New Zealand’s woes are not lulling the Springboks into a false sense of security, coaches and players say.
The mighty All Blacks arrived in SA at the weekend with their tails between their legs after suffering their first series loss on home soil by rampant Ireland in July. The 32-22 loss against Ireland in Wellington was also the All Blacks’ fourth defeat in five Tests, leaving coach Ian Foster under tremendous pressure.
As the Boks stepped up their preparations for the Rugby Championship clash at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, assistant coach Deon Davids and prop Frans Malherbe said they are not underestimating the wounded side.
“We are very task-based, we are focused in terms of what we need to do. I don’t think there is any Test match where we have ever underestimated any team,” Davids said. “We understand that for us it is important to be at our best for every Test we play in. History will tell you that a Test match between SA and New Zealand is always a hotly contested game.”
Davids noted that the All Blacks will be looking to right their wrongs on the lowveld by getting back to winning ways in the first of back-to-back Tests. The second match is at Ellis Park next weekend.
“We understand as a team they are desperate in terms of putting up a better performance, but we are also desperate in terms of improving our game. Out attitude towards the way we prepare for NZ or another team won’t change, it is all about becoming the best we can be.”
Malherbe said he is expecting a dangerous All Blacks who will be motivated to prove doubters wrong and get back to winning ways. “They are a very dangerous side who can never be underestimated,” said the experienced Stormers tighthead prop.
“The All Blacks will always be a formidable side. They had two results not going their way recently against the Irish, but we are not reading too much into that because they will be desperate to change their situation.”
Malherbe is also expecting a tough contest in scrums at what should be a sold-out Mbombela Stadium. “I won’t say there are certain pointers, but it is still the All Blacks scrum and it will always be good. If you underestimate them you will be in big trouble because they don’t have anything coming short on their part.”
Davids said the Boks face the All Blacks with the knowledge that there is room for improvement after SA’s 2-1 series win over Wales in July.
“After the Wales series, we took a short break and reconvened in a preparation camp where we revisited our performances in those three Tests to see which areas we think went well and to see where we need to improve.
“We have done a thorough review on that and our training sessions were based on those areas. We were very honest in terms of where we think we are in different departments and how we can improve.
“For us it is always a challenge in terms of taking it tournament by tournament and game by game to improve and build towards the bigger picture. Having New Zealand here at the start of the Rugby Championship, we are realistic in terms of the challenge that lies ahead and that we need to be much better.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.