Johannesburg - Current pundit and former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall believes Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against the Springboks will be New Zealand’s biggest test before a possible Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
The defending champions will have to navigate an easy pool where Argentina, ranked eighth in the latest world rankings, should give the most resistance. The rest of Pool C consists of Tonga (13th), Georgia (14th) and Namibia (21st).
The All Blacks are fresh off a 39-18 victory over Argentina to further cement their position at the top of the world rankings, a position they have occupied for six consecutive years.
“This is a challenge they need with a very easy pool at the World Cup, they are not going to be tested before the quarter-finals with Namibia, Georgia and Tonga in the pool,” Marshall said at a Laureus Sport for Good function in Pretoria on Thursday.
“What they need to do is to rise to these challenges like the one over the weekend because the next big one would be the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup.
“We’ve been knocked out of that before at 2007 at Millennium Stadium where that is due to be and the Springboks are also on New Zealand’s side of the pool so there is a possible semi-final.”
After this weekend’s clash against the Boks, New Zealand will turn their attention to Australia, who they will face in their final Rugby Championship match on August 8 before a Bledisloe Cup match the following week.
Marshall said he hoped the match between the Boks and the All Blacks would produce the same quality rugby as have been the case over the last two years.
“This weekend will certainly show where the teams are at with a lot of changes for both teams,” he said.
“I just hope that what we get out of the Ellis Park (Test) the same of what we’ve seen over the last two years which has been both teams going out with a helluva lot of positive attitude and producing quality rugby.”
The former All Black scrumhalf said South Africa had improved tremendously over the last few years.
“Physicality has always been a big part of what Springbok rugby is about, you don’t ever enter a game with a negative mind-set towards physicality when you face them,” Marshall said.
“Certainly from what I’ve seen over the last couple of years, this Springbok side has really been growing, maturing with a good balance between toughness, some youth and enthusiasm coming through.
“You never have an easy game and I think both nations are looking really good for the end of the year at the World Cup.”
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Francois Louw, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lionel Mapoe
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Victor Vito, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa