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Smith still wary of Springbok skill

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Sportal.co.nz     27 Jun 2007     allblacks.com

"It doesn't make it any different. I guarantee they will be top level games. They will be firing," Smith said of the Springboks side that will eventually take the field.

Smith said it wasn't for the All Blacks to be concerned about the standard of the opposition as they had to look after their own game.

Part of that is backing up against Australia after a difficult itinerary since the Canada game, 10 days ago.

That night the All Blacks bussed from Hamilton to Auckland, then caught an early morning flight for Sydney where they had a stopover before flying to South Africa.

They had their first proper training run on Wednesday and then the physical game with South Africa.

On Sunday they flew back to Australia, arriving on Monday.

At the moment centre Isaia Toeava is the only possible doubt for Saturday's game against the Wallabies. He has suffered bruising on a shoulder and is rated a 50-50 chance only to play.

With lock Chris Jack back with the side after paternity leave, Greg Rawlinson has returned home leaving Ross Filipo as the cover for lock.

Although the travelling has been difficult, Smith said the challenge was welcomed by the team management.

"The team needs those challenges at this time of year, and this is another one.

"It has an ability to show your mental toughness and what it means to you as a footballer and that is what we are trying to do this week," he said.

It was good practice for the World Cup when all manner of things were thrown at the side and it was a case of how the players handled that sort of adversity.

Smith said the Wallabies had impressed with their showing against South Africa, but he said even last year when the Australians were perceived as weaker they had given the All Blacks a good test.

"They are a smart team and they've shown they are tough as well.

"They and the Boks are our toughest Tests, and they really steeled themselves up for that game a couple of weeks ago - you have got to assume they are going to be physically pretty daunting," he said.

And it was clear from the South African game that Australia had put a lot of work into its scrum.

They had been talking it up, he said, and it was now a case of them backing that up.