ABs no mickey mouse team
Johannesburg - Following a successful season so far this year, the Springboks face their defining Test in the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The team had shown immense maturity this season, following an inconsistent 2012, and held an impressive record of seven victories from eight matches this season.
The South Africans had beaten seven of the top-10 teams in world rugby since their year-end-tour, but were yet to claim what many consider the most important scalp all -- New Zealand.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said their 29-15 defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, last month proved it was a tough ask.
"The fact of the matter is it is not a Mickey Mouse team we’re up against on Saturday -- they are the number-one ranked team in the world and are the World Cup winners," De Villiers said on Friday.
"They also want to win the competition and the game, so that makes for a great game.
"We won’t change anything and hopefully we can just execute our plans."
While South Africa’s record may point towards progress, De Villiers said they were aiming for a higher purpose which was to play the perfect game.
"We’ve had a good season if you take into account how we started off last year.
"This year has been really good - we’ve only lost the one game - and it all comes down to tomorrow’s game.
"It's not just the scoreboard, it's the way we play."
At half-time against Australia last week, the Boks were up by 20 points but were not happy with their performance.
Much had been said about the Boks beating the All Blacks with a four-try bonus point, but South Africa would view this as an added bonus.
De Villiers said his team would not deviate from their game plan, and stressed it was more about how they executed that plan.
"Four tries is definitely not the focus.
"We won’t play any different from how we’ve been playing in the previous games," he said.
"Our game plan hasn’t changed and, to be successful tomorrow, we have to execute what we’ve been doing.
"We have to put up a performance like we did maybe for the first 20 minutes last week against Australia but we have to put up that performance throughout the 80 minutes."
Few Springbok teams have managed to get four tries past New Zealand, with De Villiers and scrumhalf Fourie de Preez the only surviving members of the team which outscored the All Blacks by five tries to two at Ellis Park in 2004.
"The fact that Fourie and I played in that game shows that it is possible and we can share our experiences with the other players.
"But everything that happened in this Championship so far, as well as the previous games against New Zealand, won’t count for much.
"This game is all about putting up a good performance and two teams who both want to win the game."
Tests between the two rugby powerhouses remained one of the spectacles in world rugby and Saturday promised to be no different.
Both teams acknowledged the significance of the match and how much it meant, not only to the players, but to their respective supporters.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said match-ups between these two sides held a special importance to the players because of the mutual respect the teams had for each other.
"It is just one of those great games being played in a great place. Rugby is full of history and tradition and this is one of those games at one of those places," Hansen said.
"We are really looking forward to it.
"We have a choice -- we can be frightened by it, or we can embrace it and look forward to the challenge."
Meanwhile, Springbok centre JJ
Engelbrecht has recovered from a contusion to his quad muscle and will line-up
for South Africa against New Zealand.
Engelbrecht came through full
training sessions on Wednesday and Friday as has been passed fit for his 10th
Test for South Africa.
As a result, Jan Serfontein will start this match on the
Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12
Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du
Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré
Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1
Substitutes: 16, Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö
Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya
Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian
Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw
(captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie
Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Dane
Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane,
21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau