Durban - The South African public may have serious doubts that the Springboks can challenge the All Blacks this weekend, but the All Blacks themselves know better.
That much became clear when New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster addressed media in Durban on Tuesday ahead of this weekend's Rugby Championship clash at Kings Park.
They weren't the obligatory lines of 'respect for the opposition' that usually get spewed out by coaches in such instances, either.
Foster's steady tone and his measured responses to each and every Bok question reminded that, even at this time, the Springboks away is still one of the biggest fixtures on the All Black calendar.
Foster dispelled notions that the Boks had abandoned a willingness to play exciting rugby, backed both choices at flyhalf in Morne Steyn and Elton Jantjies and recalled South African trips in the past where the All Blacks had come and met some seriously attack-minded sides.
The Boks have battled in this Rugby Championship, losing away to Argentina, Australia and the All Blacks.
They did, however, return to winning ways with an 18-10 win over the Wallabies at Loftus last weekend - all of the points coming from Steyn's boot.
That was not the greatest attacking performance from South Africa in terms of creating try-scoring opportunities, but Foster did not see it that way.
"We all want to win, and every game you have to find the
best way to win," he said.
"I think last week Australia had a lot of possession so the South
Africans were doing a lot of defence which, invariably, you do when you play
against Australia because they’re a high retention rate team.
"I don’t think
South Africa necessarily went into their shell, I think they probably had to
deal with a situation where they didn’t get a lot of ball and some of
the ball they had they needed to play for territory so therefore they kicked.
"It’s probably not their fault that Australia infringed and gave them kickable
penalties so I didn’t see a massive shift."
Foster did not expect the Boks to be negative in their play at all this weekend.
"We’re not just
preparing for a kicking game," he said.
"Every time we’ve come over here for the last four
years the South African team has been very fast with a lot of open phase play
with the kicking designed to help shape the defence, so that’s probably what we’re
Steyn's contribution against the Aussies has been a key talking point this week, with the 32-year-old knocking over two drop goals and four penalties to win the game but also raise questions in terms of the Bok style.
"Both him (Steyn) and Elton (Jantjies) have played really well for South Africa," said Foster.
"They’ve got good choices and we’re prepared for both. Certainly, it does flag a slightly different style and it worked for them pretty well at Loftus against Australia so they might do it again.
"They played a pressure game against Australia and deserved the points they got.
"It doesn’t really matter how you get them; it’s the scoreboard that counts. They’ve probably been the best country in the world at creating those opportunities."