ABs need to bring best game
Wellington - Recent memories remind the All Blacks they need to produce their best in South Africa this week to achieve a clean sweep of the inaugural Rugby Championship.
According to stuff.co.nz website
, after a nine-hour flight from Buenos Aires, the All Blacks touched down in Johannesburg on Tuesday facing several challenges.
Overcoming their lingering jet-lag and dead-batting any destructive complacency were just some concerns.
“It won't be an issue at all,” insisted flanker Sam Cane. “We've won the championship but we've parked that now. We're focused on winning over here.”
Once they overcome the travel factor, Steve Hansen's men must contend with a short four-day week to prepare for their toughest test of the season.
Keeping alive their 15-match unbeaten run, the mental edge over the chasing pack and the pursuit of the world record is a testing task in any circumstances, let alone on the back of a taxing journey from Argentina.
While the Springboks initiated their fine-tuning today, the All Blacks were in recovery mode.
The tourists won't have a chance to review their rivals' thrashing of Australia until Wednesday and have just three training sessions before the clash in Soweto on Saturday.
“We are a little bit jaded, a bit tired,” Cane admitted. “It's been a reasonably tough flight and we've been told to stay up on Tuesday to adjust and get a good sleep tonight so we're raring to go.”
The Springboks have proven to be the All Blacks' biggest threat and beating them at altitude is arguably the most difficult assignment in world rugby.
“Hearing from the older guys it's always more rewarding to win over here than at home because of the challenge,” Cane said.
Earlier this year it took the All Blacks the full 80 minutes to break down the then limited Boks and Heyneke Meyer's physically combative men have progressed since dumping Morne Steyn.
“There were some massive body collisions. It was pretty tight and it took us a while to gain dominance. That only happened in the last couple of seconds,” lock Sam Whitelock said of the tense victory in Dunedin. “There were some really good lessons from that game. Our breakdown wasn't very good there.”
Last year, the second-string All Blacks felt the full Boks' wrath in Port Elizabeth. The 18-5 defeat, just before the World Cup, is a reminder the Boks must be paid due respect.
It is therefore unlikely the All Blacks will make the same mistake of changing half their team, despite having the championship trophy in their luggage. Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read were all rested the last time they played in South Africa.
This week will test the All Blacks' mental resolve more than any other this year.