Conrad Smith (File)
Johannesburg - The All Blacks will play their first Test at the covered Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday when they take on South Africa in a Rugby Championship clash and centre Conrad Smith said on Tuesday that he expected a “fast” game between the two traditional rivals.
According supersport.com website, “In my one game in Super Rugby this year it was particularly fast and I think I noticed that within five minutes,'' Smith told reporters in Dunedin.
“I'm sure the South Africans will enjoy that as well, so it will burn the lungs a wee bit,” he added.
Smith’s sentiments echo that of South Africa defensive coach John McFarland who had said that he predicted a fast game based on his experience of being part of the Bulls team which played the Highlanders at the ground earlier this year.
The fact that the ground is covered will be of some relief to the players from both teams after Dunedin was lashed with snow, sleet and rain on Tuesday to such a degree that the All Blacks were forced to move their scheduled training session from the old Carisbrook Stadium to train under cover at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
McFarland had likened playing at the Forsyth Barr Stadium to playing on the Highveld in South Africa and Smith conceded that there were similarities.
“I suppose I can see the similarities. You probably won't kick as far but certainly things like passing I think it's underrated how beneficial it is having no wind or rain to contend with. As a back it makes it particularly enjoyable,” said Smith.
New Zealand are unbeaten in this year’s Rugby Championship after back-to-back wins over Australia and a hard-fought 21-5 win over Argentina in a windy Wellington last week.
The three wins mean that New Zealand top the standings with 12 points, five ahead of South Africa. A win on Saturday would all but guarantee that the All Blacks will win the inaugural edition on the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand were not at their best as they battled to put Argentina away, a point Smith admitted to, but he said that the All Blacks had done well to adapt to the Pumas’ challenge.
“I don't think we handled Argentina well early but we adapted better as the game wore on so I think we just have to deal with the Africans and everything they pose immediately and help get our game underway,” he explained.