Hookers to face a test of precision
A sW C Fields may have said, this is a night for hookers to strut their stuff. Dane Coles and Malcolm Marx wear those extra layers of responsibility around their work as spearheads in the All Black and Springbok packs shooting for Rugby Championship supremacy.
Both need to work with revamped scrums where injury has claimed leading props Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Connie Oosthuizen, which will have some knock- on effect on that set piece momentum.
Extended advantages played by referees cut into scrums these days but their significance remains undimmed across the field and in particular, on defence in the 22m zone, where penalties, tightheads or penalty tries threaten.
When they get those chances, Coles and Marx will have plans to disrupt one side of their rivals' scrum and find favour with referee Nigel Owens or attract the attention of linesmen Angus Gardner and Matthew Carley.
Around that struggle, Coles and Marx have to hit their line out jumpers, drive into their defence and counter- ruck chances and keep enough energy to range wide on attack.
While Coles at his best, is a handful with the ball because he has pace and ball skills to crown his bulk, Marx is no slouch either and while he relishes contact he also has the jets and evasion to give defenders plenty of trouble.
Those chances may be minimal in this clash at Albany, which puts even more of a premium on players building on those opportunities. Offloads have to find teammates and be legit rather than marginal to offer Owens and Co a chance to review.
That sort of detail has been in full beam for the All Blacks, working on their passing touches and giving themselves a better line and depth on attack so they can hit offloads at pace rather than checking and offering easier targets for defenders.
Accurate communication, drip fed from the arrowhead checkpoints of Coles and Marx, has to be a solid junction in the whole operation. While most of the focus settles on the combined thrust from No 8, halfback and five eighths, the hookers have to lead.
Coles simmers best in that pressure but has been restricted in his work this year while Marx is learning the extra nuances of test rugby as their teams head into their first conflict this year.