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Smit reveals 'deep burn' for Tri Nations

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Sportal.co.nz     25 Jul 2009     Getty Images

Unlike previous years when they have been second or third favourites behind the All Blacks and Australia to win the title, this time around the Springboks are installed as the number one pick to win the competition.

However, they will go into the game at Vodacom Park already chasing their opponents - Graham Henry's team beat Australia 22-16 in the tournament opener at Auckland last week to head the table.

It will be a special day for the Springbok captain, who will reach a significant career milestone in joining Englishman Will Carling and George Gregan of Australia as the only men to have led out their country 59 times.

But Smit opted not to talk about that record and focused solely on improving another one - his side's head-to-head against New Zealand.

"What we have in this match is essentially the number one and number two teams in the world playing each other, and I am sure it will be a great contest in the best traditions of some of the others that have been played down the years," Smit said.

"Both teams need to win - us because we are starting out and are at home and them because after winning last week they need to create momentum and build a platform on the log table.

"We have not often had the rub of the green, and often we have lost games where we have started out as the favourites to win.

"The statistics don't lie, the All Blacks have been the best team in the world for some time, and they are currently in possession of the number one ranking.

"These are the two best teams in the world and it will be a great clash - these Tests never disappoint."

The cold and dry conditions in the Free State this week seem to suggest that the game could well be an open one with plenty of try-scoring opportunities.

Smit agreed with that theory, but believes that winning the ball will be first priority.

"The conditions will be more conducive to running rugby than they were for the All Blacks in their match against Australia in Auckland last week.

"But I heard All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith say earlier this week that you need to earn the right to go wide and we agree with that.

"Both teams play the sort of rugby where you create a platform before you go wide, and it would surprise me if this game was any different to the usual games between these two teams.

"There really is very little input that the captain or coaches need to give before a game between these sides. It's the ultimate Test for us."

Smit, who will play his 85th Test match and his 14th against New Zealand, also revealed the hunger within the team to win the Tri Nations title, a competition it last won in 2004.

"That seems like a lifetime ago now. It is a deep burn for the squad."