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Investec Tri Nations Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

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Sportal.co.nz     11 Sep 2009     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday, September 12, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 77 - New Zealand 42, South Africa 32, Draws 3.

LAST TIME: August 1, 2009 (Durban) - New Zealand 19-31 South Africa.

WALKING WOUNDED: Clearly the absence of centre Conrad Smith, and the earlier loss of Richard Kahui, has left New Zealand with a re-shaped midfield where Ma'a Nonu has been the choice at centre with Stephen Donald moving to second five-eighths. South Africa had concerns with wing Bryan Habana and held off naming its team in order to check him out but he came through and was included. The earlier loss of wing JP Pietersen has denied the side of useful top-match experience. No.8 Pierre Spies has also been suffering from a groin strain.

FORM: South Africa is obviously reeling from its heavy loss to Australia in Brisbane at the weekend but with the competition resting on the result this weekend, any concerns about form loss should be discounted. South Africa was in such commanding touch at home in the series that it can be expected to be firmly focused on the outcome in Hamilton. The All Blacks have had yet another break in their international programme, the second long break this year. That can only have been a boost to tired bodies, but the lack of play together since the win in Australia will be the only concern for the side. However, many of the players have been involved with their provinces in the Air New Zealand Cup so have not lacked for match contact to keep them sharpened.

WHO'S HOT: First five-eighths Morne Steyn enjoyed a fantastic home series in the Tri Nations and his goal-kicking, with dropped goals also a factor, will ensure he is a constant worry for New Zealand. Locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are always a menace, a concern that only increases as their careers advance. Flanker Heinrich Brussow has probably been the biggest mover in class across the whole tournament while halfback Fourie du Preez has been in consistently good form throughout. Again New Zealand has benefitted from having first five-eighths Dan Carter back in harness and he lifted the side considerably in Australia. He will be under considerable pressure from the Boks. Wing Sitiveni Sivivatu has been a constant danger man for the side and will demand accuracy of the South African kickers. In the pack flanker Richie McCaw faces a big challenge against Brussow while No.8 Kieran Read has impressed in his role. But again it is going to be the front five who have most questions asked of them, with special attention on prop Tony Woodock after Springbok scrum problems in Australia.

WE THINK: This is a match that may not be decided until the last few minutes. Much attention has focused on the All Blacks winning with a bonus point, but as much interest should be on keeping the Springboks without the chance to claim a bonus point. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional New Zealand-South Africa Test match, one of the great encounters in the world game, and this will be no different. New Zealand's lineout will need to be consistently accurate, its play at the breakdown needs to be sharp while control under pressure will be demanded of a backline. If New Zealand can achieve those requirements it will be a good way towards achieving a victory to keep the series alive.

TEAMS:

New Zealand1 - Tony Woodcock, 2 - Andrew Hore, 3 - Owen Franks, 4 - Brad Thorn, 5 - Isaac Ross, 6 - Jerome Kaino, 7 - Richie McCaw (captain), 8 - Kieran Read, 9 - Jimmy Cowan, 10 - Dan Carter, 11 - Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 - Stephen Donald, 13 - Ma'a Nonu, 14 - Josevata Rokocoko, 15 - Mils Muliaina.

Reserves: 16 - Aled de Malmanche, 17 - John Afoa, 18 - Adam Thomson, 19 - Rodney So'oialo, 20 - Brendon Leonard, 21 - Isaia Toeava, 22 - Cory Jane.

South Africa 1 - Tendai Mtawarira, 2 - Bismarck du Plessis, 3 - John Smith, 4 - Bakkies Botha, 5 - Victor Matfield, 6 - Heinrich Brussow, 7 - Juan Smith, 8 - Pierre Spies, 9 - Fourie du Preez, 10 - Morne Steyn, 11 - Bryan Habana, 12 - Jean de Villiers, 13 - Jaque Fourie,14 - Odwa Ndungane, 15 - Francois Steyn.

Reserves: 16- Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 - Jannie du Plessis, 18 - Danie Rossouw, 19 - Schalk Burger, 20 - Enrico Januarie, 21 - Adrian Jacobs, 22 - Ruan Pienaar.

REFEREE: Nigel Owen