South Africa entitled to their new confidence - Taylor

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Lynn McConnell     03 Oct 2018     Getty Images

Almost from the moment they touched down in South Africa after their flight from Argentina, the All Blacks have been cast in the role of underdogs against the rising Springboks side.

Hooker Codie Taylor told a media conference on Tuesday that South Africa had every reason to be confident after their performances in the last few weeks.

"The loss for us in Wellington was a difficult one to take but they deserved that win at the end of the day, they played really well. And they did it again last week against Australia. I'd say they'd be pretty confident to be at home this week," he said.

Inevitably the talk turned towards South Africa's player of 2017 and rival for Taylor, hooker Malcolm Marx.

"He's probably one of the key players in their forward pack who can build a lot of momentum for them. He's one of their strengths, he's great over the ball, he's a threat with the ball in hand as well as is their locks and their loosies and the way [Siya] Kolisi is playing, he's really leading that forward pack around the field. I think he's a huge confident booster for them when he's playing well."

But for the All Blacks it wasn't about focusing on one player as attention had to be paid across the whole team he said.

Marx was a great player and Taylor took his hat off to the way he played on the field but Taylor said he didn't focus on that, he was more concerned about preparing himself to do his own job and to play well.

Coming up against a player of Marx's quality meant you had to be on your game because you wanted to perform yourself, he said.

"Knowing you are going up against a great player has its own motivations I suppose but I don't try to get caught up in that too much," he said.

Crotty stepped into the discussion and said he had seen Taylor's play go to a new level this year, not only in the absence of Dane Coles, but in his role with the Crusaders where he had been a significant reason for the side's Super Rugby success. That was especially on the defensive side of the ball and the leadership he had taken on in driving the team defensively.

"He's a very intelligent hooker and I'd take him over Marx any day of the week," he said.

While Brodie Retallick was missing from the side in Africa due to injury, Taylor had confidence that the depth in the squad would allow the All Blacks to cope.

"Whoever plays on Saturday can step right in. Scott Barrett has been playing unreal footy this year, Sam Whitelock never takes a backward step and then we've got Paddy Tuipulotu who has come back from injury. He's a best in his own right so I think we're pretty good there," he said.

Taylor, in spite of his heavy workload this year, said he was loving being a part of the team and having been in the side for a few years now he was relishing running out to play with his mates each week. And doing his job for the team provided him with much of his energy.

A more recent factor was working with the new group of props who had come into the side.

"It's so good as they're all just willing to learn. Karl has been in there for a few months now, he's only 25 and he's soaking everything in but when he gets out there on Saturday he's one of the best on the park and he loves his scrum. Sometime you see him running around the field and he's absolutely blowing and then there'll be a scrum called and all of a sudden he's ready to go again. He's just getting excited to get stuck into a tighthead," he said.

Tim Perry had suffered a lot through injuries but he was coming good.