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Durable All Blacks at full strength for South Africa

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Lynn McConnell     05 Oct 2016     Getty Images

Flanker Jerome Kaino has rejoined the side after his shoulder injury while wing Waisake Naholo and mid-fielder George Moala are also fully fit and available for consideration.

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Given all that has happened during the campaign it is a remarkable statement of the side's durability.

Assistant coach Ian Foster acknowledge that on Tuesday in South Africa.

"It's been a tough, physical campaign to date but the way the guys have looked after themselves and been managed by the trainers has been outstanding," he said.

Foster said the pattern of a short week in South Africa after playing in Argentina was familiar now after three or four years of the same sort of process and with the late arrival, on Monday afternoon (SAT) it was a case of managing energy levels.

"Every team goes through a week like this in the Rugby Championship, it's part and parcel of it and it is our turn this week," he said.

In terms of selection for this week it was a case of assessing who were best placed in terms of energy levels, both physical and mental, to play the game.
"We've flagged we've learned in the past the importance of being really smart at selection time at this stage of the year but let's state clearly, the objective of that is to have the best possible team on the park on Saturday so making sure that we assess carefully the next few days energy levels to make sure we have the right people on the park to do the job that needs to be done," he said.

Foster said the exciting thing about the All Blacks midfield at the moment was the number of options they could consider after Anton Lienert-Brown had shown how capable he was of handling the centre role after earlier having a start at second five-eighths.

He wasn't surprised by the return to Morne Steyn at first five-eighths because he was a quality player and he had been impressed with the way Elton Jantjies had played earlier in the Championship. Having Steyn play did flag a slightly different style from South Africa.

"They've good choices at 10 and we've prepared for both," he said.

"We've just got to make sure we keep pressure on their kicks but also we've got to make sure we're smart with territory as well and they played a pressure game against Australia and deserved the points they got. It doesn't really matter how you get them, it's the scoreboard that matters and it was a technique that worked well for them and they've probably been the best country in the world at taking those opportunities so we've got to be wary of that," he said.
"Every game you have got to find the best way to win and I think last week Australia had a lot of possession so South Africa were doing a lot of defence which invariably you do when you play Australia because they are a high retention rate team so I don't think South Africa necessarily went into their shell.

"They probably had to deal with a situation where they didn't get a lot of ball and some of the ball they had they needed to play for territory so therefore they kicked. Then it's probably not their fault that Australia infringed and gave kickable penalties. I didn't see a massive shift but win at all costs? Yes, they are the same as us."

Foster said South Africa kicked 25 times in the game which was not excessive. But when teams did kick it opened the door for counter-attacking opportunities and if they were there the All Blacks wanted to be good enough to take them.

"We're not just preparing for a kicking game, we're preparing for a South African team. Every time we come over here…you go back to the last four Tests we have played here have been very fast, open, a lot of phase play with the kicking designed to help shape the defences and that is probably what we are expecting," he said.

Against Argentina he thought the All Blacks had absorbed pressure pretty well and were then able to strike and had played ball-in-hand and used territory set-piece plays to hurt them and they had reacted well from pressuring Argentina's set-piece.

But there had also been a flip side where for 30 minutes some of those things didn't go well and Argentina had been effective at slowing the game down and turning it into a scrum arm wrestle.