NZ aim to silence Soweto
Johannesburg - New Zealand will be aiming to ram home their dominance of the Rugby Championship competition with a sixth win from six matches - and silence the Springbok fans in Soweto.
"We are in no doubt how big the challenge is for the team this weekend," Hansen said ahead of Saturday's Test at the 90 000-plus capacity FNB Stadium, "but it is one we are looking forward to as it will be a real test of our resolve and character."
The All Blacks coach confidently added that his team's experience would count on Saturday, and help "quieten down" the big crowd.
"We've played in most places around the world and we've found that most places are the same ... the lines are marked out the same way and it's got a halfway and a 22," Hansen said. "So if you got out with that mindset, it doesn't matter where it is."
New Zealand have won 15 straight Tests and last lost in August last year, in South Africa, when they went down 18-5 in Port Elizabeth.
But since then the All Blacks have swept aside all their opposition to claim their second Rugby World Cup title and convincingly win the first Rugby Championship - expanded to include Argentina. They are closing in on the record winning streak for a top-tier rugby nation, which stands at 17 Tests and is shared by New Zealand and South Africa.
The New Zealanders have hinted that their game in South Africa and against their historic rival might be their biggest Test yet this year, but they are still in red-hot form and have a vastly experienced and settled line-up.
Six of the All Black players in the 22 for Saturday are New Zealand's most capped in their positions. Prop Tony Woodcock with 90 Tests, hooker Keven Mealamu (98), flank Richie McCaw (111), flyhalf Carter (90), inside centre Ma'a Nonu (71) and outside centre Conrad Smith (61) all hold national appearance records for their positions.
Hansen said on Thursday he expected the Springboks to be more attacking in Soweto than they were in a hard-fought 21-11 defeat to New Zealand in Dunedin earlier in the competition, but backed his men to respond to the crowd in the same way they did in a clinical and brilliant first-half performance to subdue Argentina to seal the title.
The imposing FNB Stadium held no fear for the All Blacks, Hansen said, after New Zealand won there in 2010 in front of more than 90 000 South Africans in the only other rugby international to be played at the venue which became known as "Soccer City" during the Soccer World Cup in 2010.
"South Africa are coming off a big win against Australia and will be playing in front of their home crowd at Soweto so it's going to be a huge Test match," Hansen said. "They'll kick in their half and run in our half.
"Yes, the 90 000 people will make a lot of noise but if there are fans that's great. If they're the opposition fans, then we need to do something to keep them quiet. We saw that in Argentina. The fans over there are fanatical and they're great for the game, (but) if you're doing things right, you can quieten them down so it becomes your place, rather than someone else's."
HAVE YOUR SAY:
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Patrick Lambie
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Tamati Ellison
Will you be one of the 90 000-strong expected crowd in Soweto on Saturday? Will the All Blacks be able to silence the crowd? Send your thoughts to Sport24