Sportal.co.nz 13.Sep.2012Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday September 15, 19:35 NZT.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 83 - New Zealand 46, South Africa 34, Draws 3.
LAST TIME: August 20,2011, (Port Elizabeth) - New Zealand 5-18 South Africa.
WALKING WOUNDED: South African reports have Jannie du Plessis starting the test with an injury. That is a sign of the desperate straits South Africa are in with a shocking run of luck on the injury front. Consider the cast of missing from the side for Saturday: Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen and Heinrich Brussow, although he wasn't wanted initially. New Zealand, by comparison, has escaped relatively unscathed. Dan Carter, with his calf strain, is an obvious loss but also out of contention were Richard Kahui, Ali Williams and Anthony Boric.
FORM: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made the point that New Zealand have not yet perfected the style of game he has envisioned for the side. Initially, that style may not be immediately apparent in Dunedin. The tough South Africans know only one way to play, especially when they are down on success, and halfback Piri Weepu has been named to blunt the prospective Springbok juggernaut. But, if the visitors are subdued then look for a lift in proceedings when Aaron Smith is called from the substitutes' bench. The All Blacks have looked the best of the sides in the Championship and had probably their most bruising encounter against Argentina last week. How they have recovered from the strain of that performance will demonstrate just how close they are to achieving Hansen's goal.
WHO'S HOT: Centre Conrad Smith demonstrated why he is such an integral of the All Blacks team with a consummate display in difficult conditions in Wellington. Wings Cory Jane and Julian Savea kept warm by looking for work with the latter demonstrating more of the power that has the rugby world sitting up and taking notice. Captain Richie McCaw showed again the manner of his leadership with some thrilling ball-in-hand running. No.8 Kieran Read was one player who took the attack to Argentina while prop Tony Woodcock demonstrated his scrummaging power against some of the best in the business. South Africa have been struggling, frustrated no doubt by the injury problems they have. Wing Francois Hougaard is always an elusive runner while Bryan Habana remains one of the most dangerous performers given half a chance. Frans Steyn offers solidity at second five-eighths but it is No.8 Duane Vermeulen and blindside Willem Alberts who will need to be at the peak of their game, with Francois Louw needing to offer some spirit at the breakdown contests.
WE THINK: South Africa are down on the basic experience they need if they are to cause an upset by beating the All Blacks. With Morne Steyn being the preferred option at first five-eighths, while Pat Lambie resides on the substitutes' bench, the unexpected is the last thing the All Blacks will have to worry about. They won't be able to concede penalties within 60m of the goal, given Frans Steyn's brute power to back up his namesake but the ability the All Blacks have shown in set-piece creation could be the forerunner to a game of speed that will suit the home side and set them up for a victory by 15 or more.
New Zealand1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Piri Weepu, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.
Reserves: 16.Keven Mealamu, 17.Charlie Faumuina, 18.Brodie Retallick, 19.Victor Vito, 20.Aaron Smith, 21.Beauden Barrett, 22.Tamati Ellison.
South Africa1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2.Adriaan Strauss, 3.Jannie du Plessis, 4.Flip van der Merwe, 5.Juandre Kruger, 6.Francois Louw, 7.Willem Alberts, 8.Duane Vermeulen, 9.Ruan Pienaar, 10.Morne Steyn, 11.Francois Houggard, 12.Frans Steyn, 13.Jean de Villiers (captain), 14.Bryan Habana, 15.Zane Kirchner.
Reserves: 16.Tiaan Liebenberg, 17.Dean Greyling, 18.Andries Bekker, 19.Marcell Coetzee, 20.Johan Goosen, 21. Juan de Jongh, 22.Pat Lambie.
REFEREE:George Clancy (Ireland)