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Preview: South Africa v AllBlacks

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Sportal.co.nz     05 Oct 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: National Stadium, Soweto, October 7, 04.00 (NZT).

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 84, New Zealand 47, South Africa 34, Draws 3

LAST TIME: September 15, 2012 (Dunedin) – New Zealand 21-11 South Africa

WALKING WOUNDED: South Africa have had injury concerns over fullback Zane Kirchner (hip), first five-eighths Johan Goosen (heel), lock Willem Alberts (hip) and prop Jannie du Plessis (stiffness) but all are expected to take their places in the side. Returning to the substitutes' bench is prop Coenie Oosthuizen who has been out with a neck injury.

FORM: South Africa demonstrated a greater willingness to play the running game, but will they have the same opportunities against the All Blacks? Their tactical kicking was awry again and any hopes of success will need a significant improvement in that department. However, the tight five are never easy to contain and as is always the case, they will need to be quelled before thoughts of victory can be entertained. New Zealand showed greater signs of cohesion, even if still not at the perfect pitch they have aimed for. But there was a greater air of confidence about their play with No.8 Kieran Read and second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu getting back to the block-busting best which are key requirements for the All Blacks in tight contests. Points of interest statistically include the fact Keven Mealamu will join the list of players to have played 100 matches for New Zealand, although 100 Tests will have to wait until next time. And a win for New Zealand would see captain Richie McCaw become the first player to appear in 100 Test victories. At the moment his winning percentage is 89.19 percent which is only exceeded by Conrad Smith who in 61 Tests for a win percentage of 90.16.

WHO'S HOT: Expect a torrid battle in the loose. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw continued his outstanding season in Argentina but faces more testing times as Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen look to repeat their effort in Dunedin, buoyed by a top showing against Australia. Tall lock Andries Bekker regained his mojo with dominance of the lineouts against the Aussies and will be looking to show it was no flash in the past against New Zealand. Wing Bryan Habana showed how much he had been under-utilised with a hat-trick of tries last week. That will have only accelerated his confidence. Dan Carter showed what he means to the All Blacks with another accomplished display after returning from injury. His combination with Nonu and Smith in midfield could prove a handful for South Africa should halfback Aaron Smith be able to operate at his best. And the continuing worth of fullback Israel Dagg and wing Cory Jane returning ill-directed kicked ball will be of concern to the Springboks' kicking game.

WE THINK: South Africa will storm out looking to throw New Zealand off their game from the outset in an effort to push them as they did in Dunedin. If they attempt a running game however, their unfamiliarity with higher risk under greater pressure from a New Zealand team more used to attacking could be costly. The All Blacks do have to overcome the travel factor, and at high altitude, but they are well capable of completing a Championship Grand Slam. The All Blacks by 10 points.

TEAMS:
South Africa: 1.Tendai Mtawarira, 2.Adriaan Strauss, 3.Jannie du Plessis, 4.Eben Etzebeth, 5.Andries Bekker, 6.Francois Louw, 7.Willem Alberts, 8.Duane Vermeulen, 9.Ruan Pienaar, 10.Johan Goosen, 11.Francois Hougaard, 12.Jean de Villiers (captain), 13.Jaco Taute, 14.Bryan Habana, 15.Zane Kirchner.
Reserves: 16.Tiaan Liebenberg, 17.Coenie Oosthuizen, 18.Flip van der Merwe, 19.Marcel Coetzee, 20.Elton Jantjies, 21.Juan de Jongh, 22.Pat Lambie.

New Zealand: 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Andrew Hore, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Daniel Carter, 11.Hosea Gear, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Keven Mealamu, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Luke Romano, 19.Adam Thomson, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Tamati Ellison.

REFEREE: Alain Rolland