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Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

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Sportal.co.nz     12 Sep 2013     Getty Images

LAST TIME: South Africa 16 lost to New Zealand 32, at National Stadium, Johannesburg

WALKING WOUNDED: The All Blacks welcome back Liam Messam (hamstring) to the blindside while Ma'a Nonu has recovered from his ankle niggle to start at second-five.

The surprise selection this week is that of Dane Coles at hooker. Set to earn his ninth Test cap, the 26-year-old will start ahead of veteran Keven Mealamu, while Andrew Hore will watch from the stands after starting the first three matches of the Rugby Championship.

Impressive rookie Steven Luatua moves to the bench where he will be joined by newcomer Matt Todd.

Meanwhile, Springboks coach Heyeke Meyer has named an unchanged squad of 23, with specialist flanker Flip van der Merwe at lock alongside Eben Etzebeth.


FORM:
New Zealand:
Beat Australia 47-29 (a)
Beat Australia 27-16 (h)
Beat Argentina 28-13 (h)

South Africa:
Beat Argentina 73-13 (h)
Beat Argentina 22-17 (a)
Beat Australia 38-12 (a)

New Zealand are yet to be pushed hard in 2013 and their six wins - including the Steinlager Series against France - each by an average of 17 points, shows just how far ahead they have been in all areas.

At a sodden Waikato Stadium, the All Blacks were stunned in the opening five minutes when a dropped pass ended with Argentina strolling over for a converted try.

Otherwise, the three tries-to-one victory was impressive considering the poor conditions. It will also put New Zealand in good stead to face what could be another wet weekend.

South Africa was sensational against the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday. They scored a bonus point four tries and showed an attacking flair that has not been seen in a long time.

The loose forward trio of Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen is one of the more impressive ones we've seen from the Boks and despite their size, each showed decent pace when getting to the breakdown.

As usual, Morne Steyn has been slotting goals from all over the pitch, while the new midfield combination of captain Jean de Villiers and JJ Engelbrecht is producing opportunities for the lethal finishers out wide.

WE THINK: This one shapes up as an intriguing contest due to what we've seen from both sides so far.

Up front it will be fairly even, but the Boks will probably have an edge due to the absence of Richie McCaw and the introduction of Coles to the physicality of South African Test rugby.

However, South African media have continually questioned the choice of Van der Merwe at lock with suggestions that Meyer has already conceded defeat at the lineout and is focussing on dominating scrums.

That's where Argentina was able to expose the New Zealanders in Hamilton and it makes sense for their next opponent to target that area.

From numbers 9 to 12 we also see an even match.

But that's where the similarities end.

Bryan Habana is the only Test-proven outside back South Africa has in its arsenal. True, the Springboks have scored 60 percent of their tries this year from counter-attacks but look for Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea to be a class above in that department.

What it comes down to is the approach South Africa will take. While a lot has been made of their new-found attacking flair, in reality, they won't want to take on the All Blacks at their own game.

Meyer is the mastermind behind the kick-chase philosophy that has dominated South African rugby since his reign with the Bulls in Super Rugby.

With so much riding on this match, we expect the Boks to test the waters with a few looping plays before the likes of Steyn and halfback Ruan Pienaar begin to dictate play with kicks from the pocket and the base of the ruck.

Even then we feel as though the All Blacks have the capability to win those contests before returning the pressure with the educated decision-makers in their side.

It will be tight. But the likes of Dan Carter, Tony Woodcock, Kieran Read, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Israel Dagg and Sam Whitelock are well versed in playing error-free football when it counts.

The excitement of the challenge has the All Blacks truly preparing to bring out their A game, and in front of 48,000 screaming fans at Eden Park they will get the job done.

New Zealand by 10.

Teams:

New Zealand:1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Dane Coles, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Daniel Carter, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Ben Smith, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Keven Mealamu, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Steven Luatua, 20.Matt Todd, 21.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22.Beauden Barrett, 23.Charles Piutau.

South Africa: 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bismark de Plessis, 3.Jannie du Plessis, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 6. Willem Alberts, 7. Francois Louw, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Bryan Habana, 12. Jean de Villiers (c), 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 14. Willie le Roux, 15. Zane Kirchner.

Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Gurthro Steenkamp, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandre Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Jano Vermaak, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein.

Referee: Romain Poite