Sopoaga savouring the moment

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Lynn McConnell     23 Jul 2015     Getty Images

While a youngster he had all the dreams of many New Zealand boys about being an All Black and while he thought it would never happen it had been special when told by assistant coach Ian Foster that he would be starting in No.10.

"It's the best team I've been given the keys to drive around. There are so many centurions in this team. The midfield pairing outside me, everyone knows what they bring and that little Nugget [halfback Aaron Smith] inside, probably the best player on the planet right now so it is a massive challenge but I am just looking forward to it," he said.

"As I say, you dream of these moments your whole life and to be here right now is something I will savour," he said.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen also introduced lock James Broadhurst to make his debut saying the side was aware it would have to step up again from its effort against Argentina.

"Though we were happier with our game last weekend, there is a genuine desire to take it up a level.

"The Springboks will be desperate after their loss last week and we will have to better that desperation with our own urgency, intensity and accuracy in the execution of our game and skill sets," he said.

A lot of thought had gone into the decision to start with Sopoaga.

"Once again it is a juggling act. You have got to have the experience and you have got to find out if the young people in your group can cope with the pressure.

"And there's no bigger game than this one. Ellis Park is a tough place to play and we will find out a lot about our athletes.

"We're comfortable and confident with that he [Sopoaga] can run the cutter and be the driver that we need him to be. He plays up in the line, he's flat and he challenges the opposition.

"He's done that all season for the Highlanders and that's all we expect him to do, to bring that form to this team and look after his role. That's all he has to do really and everyone else will do their own job."

It would make it a little easier for Sopoaga to step up knowing that his franchise team-mate Aaron Smith would be at halfback inside him.

"They've played all season together and he's got a pretty experienced bloke outside him [Ma'a Nonu]."

Sopoaga said he didn't think it could get much bigger than what he was facing.

"It's a dream come true and I'm just looking forward to the challenge," he said.

Preparation would be the key and it had been his method all season to prepare as well as he could and whatever would happen on the weekend would happen.

"I've just tried to stay relaxed and the boys here have been pretty awesome and the coaching staff and management are awesome too. I've just got to go out and nail my role and everyone else will take care of their own jobs," Sopoaga said.

He had played at Ellis Park during Super Rugby but acknowledged there was a world of difference playing there in a Test match, but he said it would show whether he belonged or not.

"That Super season was pretty awesome not only for me personally but as a team for the Highlanders. I've got a lot of confidence in my ability and what I can do," he said.

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