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Preview: South Africa v New Zealand

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Aug 2011     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Nelson Mandela Stadium, Port Elizabeth, 03.00 (NZT), 01.00 (AT)

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 82, New Zealand 46, South Africa 33, Draws 3

LAST TIME: July 30, 2011 (Wellington) – New Zealand 40-7 South Africa.

WALKING WOUNDED: Frans Steyn has suffered a hamstring injury so his place was taken by Patrick Lambie who leap-frogged Gio Aplon for the job. Prop Gurthro Steenkamp returns to the side after a long injury lay-off. New Zealand has four key players returning from long-term injuries: prop Tony Woodcock, centre Richard Kahui, wing Isaia Toeava, fullback Israel Dagg. Prop John Afoa is back in the side after suffering a fractured eye socket when coming on in the home Test against South Africa.

FORM:
South Africa:
Lost, v Australia 9-14 (h)
Lost, v New Zealand 7-40 (a)
Lost, v Australia 20-39 (a)
Won, v England 21-11 (h)
Lost, v Scotland 17-21 (a)

New Zealand:
Won, v Australia 30-14 (h)
Won, v South Africa 40-7 (h)
Won, v Fiji 60-14 (h)
Won, v Wales 37-25 (a)
Won v Ireland 38-18 (a)

Form will count for little in this game given the extreme number of changes that have been made by the sides – South Africa as a result of leaving 21 of its players at home for the Australasian tour and New Zealand for leaving seven key performers at home to save them the wear and tear of travelling to South Africa so close to the World Cup. South Africa will be better for the outing last week involving their returning players while New Zealand will be looking to the Last Chance Saloon for World Cup selection to lift their players on the fringe of selection.

WHO'S HOT: Fullback Patrick Lambie may have been allocated his place at fullback due to injury this week but he is the one player in the South African backline capable of generating something from nothing. Whether he remains at fullback all game will be a point of interest. Halfback Fourie du Preez is such a fine performer that he will allow the All Blacks loose forwards no respite around scrums, rucks and mauls and shapes as a formidable influence on the outcome. Hooker Bismarck du Plessis is regarded as the form hooker in South African rugby and he has plenty to prove ahead of the World Cup. No.8 Pierre Spies is in a similar boat while it will be interesting to see if Heinrich Brussow can dominate in the loose in the absence of Richie McCaw. New Zealand captain and hooker Keven Mealamu has been the in-form hooker of New Zealand's season and has a chance to seal his starting place for the World Cup in this game. Flanker Jerome Kaino has been in fine form, thriving on the physical exchanges in the loose while halfback Jimmy Cowan has been consistent for the side throughout.

WE THINK: South Africa will come out firing to make a statement against a team they will perceive as being markedly weaker than that which dominated the first clash between the two. However, New Zealand will be better equipped than the comparable South African side in Wellington and the margin is likely to be closer. The need for discipline will be tantamount for the tourists who can expect some provocation from the desperate home team – some things never change in rugby – but success in that area will go a long way toward the New Zealanders achieving a win that should set up another Tri Nations series for them. However, it may be a close call.

TEAMS:
South Africa: 1.Gurthro Steenkamp, 2.Bismarck du Plessis, 3.Jannie du Plessis, 4.Bakkies Botha, 5.Victor Matfield (captain), 6.Heinrich Brussow, 7.Willem Alberts, 8.Pierre Spies, 9.Fourie du Preez, 10.Morne Steyn, 11.Bryan Habana, 12.Jean de Villiers, 13.Jaque Fourie, 14.JP Pietersen, 15.Pat Lambie.

Reserves: 16.John Smit, 17.Tendai Mtawarira, 18.CJ van der Linde, 19.Danie Rossouw, 20.Ashley Johnson, 21.Francois Hougaard, 22.Butch James.

New Zealand: 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu (captain), 3.John Afoa, 4.Samuel Whitelock, 5.Ali Williams, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Adam Thomson, 8.Liam Messam, 9.Jimmy Cowan, 10.Colin Slade, 11.Hosea Gear, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Richard Kahui, 14.Isaia Toeava, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Andrew Hore, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Jarrad Hoeta, 19.Victor Vito, 20.Andy Ellis, 21.Piri Weepu, 22.Cory Jane.

REFEREE: G Clancy.