All Blacks ex­pect­ing huge test from resur­gent Boks

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NEW ZEALAND are ex­pect­ing a vin­tage chal­lenge from a resur­gent South Africa side in their top-of-thetable Rugby Cham­pi­onship en­counter in Auck­land next week­end.

All Blacks-Spring­boks clashes are al­ways among the high­lights of the Test sea­son but the ri­valry lost some of its edge last year af­ter the world cham­pi­ons won 41-13 at home and 57-15 in Dur­ban.

South Africa have re­bounded from their mis­er­able 2016, how­ever, and go into Sat­ur­day’s match at North Har­bour Sta­dium only three points be­hind the All Blacks af­ter a 23-23 draw with Aus­tralia at the week­end.

“We all know the way the South Africans play,” All Black lock Brodie Re­tal­lick (pic­tured) told lo­cal me­dia yes­ter­day.

“We’ve seen the last cou­ple of weeks how phys­i­cal they’ve been, es­pe­cially up front. As al­ways, they’re big boys and they like to come at you. Ev­ery Test is spe­cial, but from what we’ve seen so far in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, they’ve had two great wins over Ar­gentina and they’ll be a lit­tle bit frus­trated with the draw against Aus­tralia in Perth.

“They’ll be com­ing here with a bit of anger, and with the skill and phys­i­cal­ity they’re play­ing with, I’m sure it’s go­ing to be a good spec­ta­cle.”

South Africa coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee said at the week­end he was dis­ap­pointed with the draw, if proud of the way his side bat­tled back from 10 points down early in the sec­ond half to re­main un­beaten in six Tests this year. He was also en­cour­aged by the way Ar­gentina man­aged to put pres­sure on the All Blacks in the first 60 min­utes of their de­feat last week­end in New Ply­mouth.

“I don’t see any weak­nesses in the All Black side,” Coet­zee told re­porters in New Zealand yes­ter­day. “I think they are vul­ner­a­ble but you still have to be at your best to ex­ploit that.

“They have ob­vi­ously stepped up when they have needed to. You can­not af­ford to lose con­cen­tra­tion or fo­cus. In the last 20 min­utes they can eas­ily score 20 points.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with his side so it re­mains to be seen if the Boks will have to con­tend with rookie Vaea Fi­fita, who burned the Pumas de­fence to score a try in his first Test start last week.

“We’ve got some pretty quick loosies in this team, but that was just awe­some to see him go out and take his op­por­tu­nity like that,” said All Blacks cen­tre Ryan Crotty.

REUTERS

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