Familiarity an asset for All Blacks in opening Cup game

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Halfback Aaron Smith said the fact they were playing another southern hemisphere side in their opening game was similar to what happened in 2015 when they opened against Argentina.

 

They had played them a lot and had a lot of awareness of what was ahead of them and that was the same against South Africa.

 

"Obviously the magnitude of the game, the excitement around it, it's there. I'm glad it's finally here, the Test week. We got flogged a bit last week and it's been really nice to get into that game prep week so we've got a bit of normality back," he said.

 

But it was at another level because it was South Africa in game one. And all the preparation was geared to being at the right place when running out on Saturday for their first game.

 

Having the experience of 2015's World Cup had been a help in getting into the right preparation mode.

 

He said South Africa's much discussed defensive plan had been very obvious the last two times they played them. They had a real plan around their defensive game and filling the field with numbers.

 

But the All Blacks had learned lessons from that game and the Perth loss to Australia and were hopefully in good stead to put in a performance they could be proud of on Saturday.

 

The signs from South Africa's warm-up with Japan showed similar intent in their defensive plan and their kicking game.

 

Smith said he had also learned from the scramble he had with rival halfback Herschelle Jantjies in the last moments of the Wellington Test as they chased a high ball which Jantjies secured to score the try which allowed the Springboks to tie the game.

 

A similar situation had happened in the second Bledisloe Cup game against Australia when halfback Will Genia put a kick through and while he couldn't catch it he set himself to take the hit and secure the ball.

 

"It was a lesson well learnt and any chip-chases I put my body on the line for the team if I'm available to do that," he said.

 

Wing-fullback Ben Smith said South Africa's wings did take 'a bit of a punt' at times in rushing infield in defence and the All Blacks had been working on ways to cope with that tactic.

 

"It is a bit of a gamble, if they do it right they can shut down our attack. If we can execute our plans that we are going to put into place then that will give us an opportunity as well," he said.

 

There had been no surprise in the suggestion South Africa would play a kicking game, it was something they had always done and they did it well.

 

"For us as a team it is being aware of that and taking that challenge on if they want to put the likes of high balls up. It is just executing our plans around that and being comfortable with it," he said.

 

Being back at fullback against Tonga had been enjoyable and it was good to challenge himself.

 

He wasn't down on confidence.

 

"I've always believed in my ability and what I can do in getting out there and I'll always back myself to get out there and do a good job," he said.

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