SA ready for 'irritated' NZ
Auckland - John Smit says his Springboks are braced for an "irritated" All Blacks team in the Tri-Nations opener at Eden Park on Saturday.
The touring skipper believes South Africa's whitewash of the All Blacks over three Tests last year will have New Zealand primed for revenge.
Smit fronted a large media gathering in Auckland on Tuesday where he left little doubt about the challenge he felt his side faced in defending their Tri-Nations title this season, especially in a campaign they open in New Zealand with back-to-back Tests in Auckland and Wellington.
"The All Blacks are going to be as competitive as they were last year, if not more so because of the fact that they didn't win it last year," Smit said.
"They are the team that has won the Tri-Nations the most out of all three of us. Not winning it really irritates them.
"I'm pretty sure they are going to rock up pretty worked up and ready to go on Saturday."
The Springboks have not beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park since 1937 and the last home defeat for New Zealand there was in 1994 against France.
Smit said that history wasn't lost on his team.
"It's a tough place to play rugby against a tough team," he said of Eden Park.
Asked how his side could make their own history there, he said: "You try and come with the best you have got and you certainly try to stick to your strengths. If you can do that and manage to get a few things right … that hasn't been done for a long time because it is such a big challenge. So we are certainly up against it on Saturday."
The fact that Eden Park would be the World Cup headquarters next year when the Boks defend their world title had little relevance to this test, according to Smit who refused to be drawn into the psychological benefits of winning there after victories in Dunedin and Hamilton over the previous two years.
"It's important for us to succeed in every test," he emphasised with the Boks operating under an expectancy that perhaps only the All Blacks can understand.
"For us to get too wrapped up in the World Cup now would be a bit foolish. We have a three-week campaign that takes us halfway through the Tri-Nations and they are three important games because we haven't had much success in Brisbane (against Australia) either.
"It will be the lessons learnt that will help us towards the next World Cup."
He had watched the June tests in New Zealand and Australia with interest as the All Blacks and Wallabies tuned up but read little into them as far as what their impact on the Tri-Nations might be.
"It's hard to judge where teams are at this early in the year – time will tell. It's always a challenge coming here and you can see that by how seldom we have been able to achieve a result.
"So it's nice to come here and have two cracks in a row. But it's only really nice if you are able to get success on the road
The Tri-Nations was about maintenance and improvement along the way whether you were winning or losing.
"Any one of the three teams can lose on any weekend and that's what makes it such a challenging tournament. You have to try and make a statement every single weekend."