“They’ve certainly taken a step forward in the way they play, they still use their traditional strengths so you always expect a big tough battle, but they’ve added creativity and a bit of flair. There’ll be massive pressure on the game, no matter what, because it’s number one on the rankings versus number two, and whoever wins can say that they’re playing the best footy in the world at the moment,” Kieran Read, the All Blacks’ outstanding eighthman said yesterday.
New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster, who looks after back play and attack for the All Blacks, said the selection of Handre Pollard as the starting flyhalf for the Springboks had added a new dimension to their play.
“It’s been quite a significant change at 10, we thought Handre Pollard was really strong in Wellington, he’s quite attacking and composed, he did a lot of good things and he’s very much a player of the future. He gives them a bit more width.
“The Springboks also seem to have a strong squad of 23 now, they’ve developed a strategy to use all 23 players more. It’s been one of our key strengths to use all 23 players and keep the tempo going upwards. They also still have their key strengths of kicking and the lineout drive,” Foster said.
The Waikato legend also said the All Blacks and Springboks had a special relationship, which was borne out by the wonderful gestures made in Wellington towards Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana to celebrate their 100 games for South Africa.
“The All Blacks versus the Springboks is special, it always has been and it always will be. There’s a great feeling between the teams, a mutual respect. We have a lot of time for how they go about things and the biggest compliment we can pay them is how we always lift our game against them. We know we have to be at 100% to beat them, if we’re at 99% we’ll lose,” Foster said.
2013 IRB Player of the Year Read, who had a tremendous tussle with Duane Vermeulen in Wellington, admitted that he would be disappointed if the injured eighthman was not in the picture at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“I’m sure the Springboks will still be good whoever steps out at eight, but Duane certainly leads the charge for them with his hit-ups, his carries really give them go-forward. He loves the physicality and he’s just a typical brute of an African beast.
“I’ll be a little bit disappointed if he’s not playing because he’s a good man and a great rugby player, and you always like to pit yourself against the very best. But it’s not really an individual battle out there, you rarely come up one-on-one against your opposite number, it’s a team game,” Read said.