All Blacks ready for Springboks formidable forward pack

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He said, "They've got one of the most formidable forward packs in the world in terms of size and ability and the way they play the game. What a challenge at home. We played them twice last year over there and get to play them here before what is going to be a big World Cup."


Taylor acknowledged he was up against two good hookers in Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx, and big men backed them.


"They're both great scrummagers; they have different ways of going about it. They back themselves in those areas, they're great lineout throwers, and around that maul, they're always on the back looking for opportunities. They always play with confidence, and you have to go out there and match it, if not be better.


"There's no better challenge as an All Black to go against a South African forward pack like they have. Mentally you have to get yourself in a pretty dark place and prepare yourself for what is coming."


But he said the All Blacks had made some progress over the last 18 months, and they would fire some shots too.


The game should also see his Crusaders front-row teammate Tamaiti Williams make his debut.


Taylor said Williams had been in the Crusaders system for a few years. His potential was always obvious, and in the last two years, he had the chance to play Super Rugby and had put his hand up.


"I'm proud of his efforts going from being a prop who comes off the bench playing 20 minutes to someone that played 70 of a Super Rugby final and extremely well. It's a testament to him and the work he has put on off the field and also the support he has behind him.


"When he gets the ball in hand, he's pretty handy, and he's been going well at set piece time as well. It's going to be a big challenge, but Fletcher Newell debuted against South Africa last year as well, and he put his hand up.


"I don't think I've seen someone with the stature and skillset in the world around his ability to play with the ball, explosiveness and footwork for a big man."


Williams from Kaeo in New Zealand's far north said young Māori boys could only dream of being in the All Blacks, and he enjoyed the chance.


He said while he had spent some years in Australia as a child, he had always supported the All Blacks.


"I did like league growing up but for me the All Blacks was the pinnacle."


He played league in Australia on Sundays and rugby on Saturdays.


Ahead of the 2023 season, he had to look hard at himself and his fitness, which Taylor said he needed to work on.


"I had a big off season and I came in and wanted to train every day and get better. That was the main goal."


Coming from a small town like Kaeo meant a lot. His uncle, former All Black and Sevens captain Eric Rush, was a significant mentor for him coming through, especially at school in Auckland, and he received texts from him often reminding him that he had to continue pushing for the people in the Far North.


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