The All Blacks sealed the Rugby Championship crown with their 54-14 drubbing of Argentina in La Plata at the weekend, taking them to 21 points on the standings.
The second-placed Springboks rebounded from disappointing results on the road to hammer Australia 31-8 in Pretoria and go to 12 points.
“We’ve won the Rugby Championship, but we’ve parked that and we’re now focused on winning in South Africa. If you talk to the older guys, they’ll tell you it’s more rewarding winning here than beating the Springboks at home. The guys that have been around a while really love testing themselves against the best here, it’s one of the toughest places to win,” loose forward Sam Cane told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.
Lock Sam Whitelock also stressed the importance of the All Blacks maintaining their winning streak that now stretches to 15 games going back to the start of their triumphant World Cup campaign last year.
“It’s really nice that we’ve put the trophy away, but this weekend will be a massive challenge. It would be great to start off a new competition with a clean sweep.
“Last year didn’t go so well for us in Port Elizabeth and South Africa are always hard to beat at home. But that’s the beauty of international rugby, you have to perform week in and week out. All you need is one game to not go well and all your good work can unravel,” Whitelock said.
Whitelock admitted that the All Blacks were surprised by Argentina’s more expansive approach in La Plata, the Pumas having pushed the world champions hard three weeks earlier when Wellington reserved her worst weather for the game. But he doubted the Springboks would make the same mistake.
“We were a little surprised that they kept the ball in hand so much, having troubled us in the first game with different tactics. But then again, the weather in Wellington was pretty terrible that night.
“But we’re expecting a typical All Blacks/Springboks Test on Saturday, with massive body collisions. It will surely be physical, the body will take a bit of a hammering,” he said.
Cane was also expecting the Springboks to attack them at close quarters.
“They have a big focus on the gain line, as we all do, but they really target the cleanouts and big collisions, they bring a lot of heat there,” Cane said.