Jean: Impossible is nothing
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Auckland - The Springboks are bristling with confidence that they can break open fortress New Zealand when they face the All Blacks on Saturday in a top-of-table Rugby Championship clash.
South African coach Heyneke Meyer said beating the world champions on their home turf is "the ultimate challenge" while the hosts see the game as their toughest since winning the World Cup two years ago on the same Eden Park ground.
The All Blacks' incredible home record is there to be broken, Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers said as he rated his side's preparation for the Test between the world's top two sides as their "best ever".
History is stacked against the South Africans, with the All Blacks on a 30-match winning streak at Eden Park, a venue where the Springboks last won 76 years ago.
The All Blacks have not lost in New Zealand since 2009 when the Springboks beat them 32-29 in Hamilton, and that result, said De Villiers, has proved a huge motivating factor.
"It just shows nothing is impossible. It's first of all a massive challenge but secondly one that we can really look forward to."
While the Springboks are buoyant, the All Blacks, who will be without injured skipper Richie McCaw, have toned down their pre-match rhetoric.
"The team that executes their game with the greatest effectiveness, clarity and intensity will be the one that comes out on top," said coach Steve Hansen.
Although the All Blacks have won all six Tests they have played this year, stand-in captain Kieran Read acknowledged they are yet to produce a complete performance.
"But we're confident in our abilities and know that we can play a lot better than we have done," he said.
The visitors go into the Test with a one bonus point advantage over the All Blacks and a win on Saturday would make them difficult to overhaul as their last two matches, against the Wallabies and All Blacks, are at home in South Africa.
New Zealand play Argentina away in their penultimate fixture in the four-nation southern hemisphere championship.
The robust Springboks command a 30kg advantage in the forwards, suggesting the All Blacks will look for quick turnover ball at the breakdown, which should suit McCaw's replacement Sam Cane.
This will be the biggest Test of 21-year-old Cane's brief career, but Hansen believes he has the required mental toughness.
"He's ready. He's a good athlete and mentally he's able to put things in perspective," the coach said.
The Springboks have retained the same line-up that thrashed the Wallabies 38-12 last week while the All Blacks have made five changes from their 28-13 win over Argentina.
Some, such as Cane, were injury-enforced, but the surprise selection on form is that of Dane Coles at hooker ahead of veterans Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore.
Coles has only started in two of his eight Tests and weighs 96kg, considerably lighter than the hulking Springbok Bismarck du Plessis, who hits 112kg.
Meyer sees a weakness in the All Blacks scrum, although he concedes they could command the lineout.
Both backlines relish playing with pace and width which, if forecast rain holds off, opens up try-scoring opportunities, meaning the game could come down to the accuracy of the kickers.
Should the Boks win for the first time at Eden Park since 1937 they will also leapfrog the All Blacks at the top of the IRB rankings.
Kick-off is at 09:35 (SA time) on Saturday.
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 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
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss , 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein