25 Sep 2021

All Blacks ready for another Springbok showdown

11:43 am on 25 September 2021

Sparks are guaranteed to fly when the All Blacks and South Africa meet for the first time since the last World Cup with tonight's Rugby Championship game in Townsville playing host to the 100th clash between rugby's most successful nations.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles mixes it up with the Springboks.

Dane Coles mixing it up Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand will be strongly favoured to wrap up a 12th southern hemisphere championship title with a win at North Queensland Stadium but there is a lot more than that at stake in a fierce rivalry that goes back a century.

The All Blacks prevailed in a high-quality pool clash at the 2019 World Cup but it was the Springboks who headed home from Japan with the Webb Ellis Trophy, their third triumph matching New Zealand's record.

The South Africans missed last year's test championship because of the COVID-19 pandemic and were bumped off the top of the world rankings by the All Blacks in the wake of a second successive loss to Australia last week.

While New Zealand have enjoyed by far the better of the rivalry since South Africa returned from their Apartheid-era isolation, the fixture still holds a special place in the rugby calendar for both nations.

"The whole of the country is really excited about playing South Africa again and that's a mark of respect for them, isn't it?" All Blacks coach Ian Foster said.

"We're no different, we've had an eye on this ... there's a lot on the line for them and a lot on the line for us ..."

Foster has put out the best side available to him, bringing Beauden Barrett back at flyhalf and loading up his pack with gnarly veterans for a huge forward battle in the first of two tests in two weeks against the world champions.

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber, who apologised to fans after the second loss to the Wallabies last week, has also gone for experience as his team bids to keep alive their slender hopes of winning the championship.

The South Africans have promised a return to the game that won them the World Cup, so New Zealand can expect plenty of high kicks, mauling and lightning strikes from the wings on Saturday.

"It's always a massive task to face the All Blacks," said Nienaber. "We know that we need to a deliver a quality 80-minute performance against them to turn the corner after two disappointing defeats."

Springboks celebrate scoring a try on their way to beating the All Blacks in Wellington in 2018.

Springboks win in 2018 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says his side have no special plans to counter the threat of New Zealand and that executing their own game-plan better is key for them.

For Kolisi, it is all about returning to what has made his team successful in the last few years, an accurate kicking game and forward domination through their pack.

"We have been disappointed losing two games in a row, but our main focus has been on looking at what we have done and to improve on it," Kolisi said.

"Against Australia we deviated from our usual plan and paid for it, now we want to go back to what has made us successful."

"We messed up things we normally get right, so we want to get on top of what we need to do," he said. "It's tough to lose two in a row, we want to win every game. But the biggest thing we have focused on is to get our stuff right this weekend."

Kolisi has called on his teammates to remember how they beat the All Blacks in Wellington in 2018, handing New Zealand a rare home defeat with many of the current Boks involved in that game.

"I have told the guys we are not being asked to do something we have not done before. A lot of this side have won against the All Blacks," he said.

"As a team we have our own plans, systems and goals, and as players we know what people at home (in South Africa) are expecting and want to see happen tomorrow."

Australia were able to stop South Africa's vaunted rolling maul in the 30-17 win in Brisbane last weekend and were also vastly superior at the breakdown.

"New Zealand and Australia stop the maul differently and we have sorted that out," Kolisi said. "At the breakdown, we will not do anything different, it is just about executing properly."